Getting ready for a two day Leadership Conference tonight.

Some of you are no doubt wondering why we are not writing as much so far this trip. It is because the schedule we are on is intense, and we are fighting some exhaustion. It is true we built two days into the schedule to travel from Masaka on the west side of Uganda to Mbale on the east side. What we didn’t figure in was the exhaustion factor of packing up each day and riding multiple hours in the car for two days through traffic jams, constant near misses with crazy motorcyclists and trucks and vans – at one point on a two lane road I noticed a vehicle passing us by, and as I glanced over at them, I could see a taxi, which is a 15 passenger van loaded with 20+ people, racing by HIM on the opposite shoulder so that for a few moments we were three vehicles abreast facing the oncoming traffic at fairly high speed. In addition to these, we had to continually deal with people running across the road in front of us, all manner of livestock – chickens, turkeys, dogs, goats, cattle – crossing in front of us (I am now certain that they train these chickens to wait until you’re right on top of them and then to run almost directly under the front wheels of the car! It must be some kind of a survival game for them…). Add to this almost constant pothole dodging, stops by the police looking for smugglers or bribes (no bribes so far this trip), etc., etc. Needless to say, not restful, even though we arrive in time to have some down-time. Actually, we end up spending that little time on finding food we can eat, settling in to new digs somewhere, and so on.

So, being very tired from preaching this morning, after which Gail taught a women’s meeting, and having yet to prepare for teaching tomorrow, we will include here a few short vignettes from our adventures since April 12. Keeping the balance between missionary and journalist can be tricky…

Vignette #1: We attempted to bring a large tote, barely inside the size restrictions for luggage, and fortunately packed it with give-away stuff and just a few minor items for resupplying our dwindling resources in Uganda. This box would allow us to compact some of the junk we carry about with us into one neat package rather than multiple suitcases. The airline completely lost the tote, as if they had never seen such a thing and could not find any way to actually send it on with the rest of our luggage. Gail kept up the calls to the airlines for three weeks, getting a completely different story each time. If they are to be believed, our tote went to Atlanta, London, Minneapolis, Detroit, Orlando, Toronto, back to Dallas, and on to Amsterdam, but no one ever knew where it was at the moment. We were thinking, “This darn tote is having even more fun that we are!” We were even told that the tote arrived back at DFW airport on April 10 – now keep in mind that we didn’t even leave for the airport with the tote until April 11. Every one of these “officials” from the airline swore to us that they were looking at the paperwork or the computer and that what they were telling us was true.

Finally, the last word we had was, “We do not have any idea where your bag is. It seems to be gone. Please fill out form such and such on such and such a website (major clunky website BTW). Then, two days later, we received a call from a taxi driver who had been commissioned by the airline in Entebbe, Uganda, to deliver our missing bag to us. Perhaps it had been sitting in Uganda at the airport all this time? Who can tell?  After some jockeying about over a period of many hours, the missing tote arrived at our guesthouse in Bugembe. It had been broken into, damaged, some items removed, three of the four corner locks were missing, and the clamps on the ends that hold it closed were missing, so it was taped shut. Apparently fun was had by all, and neither KLM nor Delta knows to this day that the bag arrived at the airport and was delivered.

Vignette #2: I’m pretty sure that what we saw along the road in Masaka was unusual because we had never seen it before. A very dirty little man, his clothing stained dark brown from sleeping outdoors, was walking along the side of the road with his back to us and the seat of his pants entirely gone so that the passing motorists got the full moon treatment. I asked Alfred about this, and he said the man was a crazy man. There are many like this throughout the towns of Uganda. Occasionally, they are rounded up by the police and delivered to an asylum in Kampala, but then they either escape or are released and usually make their way back to their home ground – crazy like foxes, perhaps.

Vignette #3: We passed a more ominous crowd leaving the Jinja area. There were maybe 100 people of all ages demonstrating along the side of the road. They had a loud speaker blaring music mounted on the back of a truck loaded with people hanging off on every side. The ones parading along the side of the truck were dancing an African dance and waving some kind of plant. All of this is witchcraft and is a “circumcision” celebration that is held often by a certain tribe centered around Mbale. I had not seen it this far away from Mbale before. Apparently, if they capture a male tribe member who is not yet circumcised (the discovery process is a bit of a mystery to me), they hold a multi-day ceremony, make him or them walk many miles to a pre-arranged site where a witch-doctor ritually circumcises the victim or victims in a public ceremony with primitive instruments. Yes, the whole idea makes me flinch every time I witness any part of this cultural phenomenon. But if the man himself flinches, he is abused and beaten. This is a very old tribal custom. Chases through the streets of Mbale by hundreds of screaming Ugandans after some poor uncircumcised tribe member, sometimes after their clothes have been ripped off, are well documented on the internet.