While planning my trip to Uganda, I was happy to have the opportunity to book my first night’s stay near the airport in an Airbnb hosted by the AidChild Leadership Institute. AidChild is an organization that I first connected with back in 2007 while working on a documentary project in Uganda. I’ve been impressed by their focused vision on the pursuit of an HIV-free generation and the innovative ways that they have cared for children along the way.
The AidChild Leadership Institute is a wellness and academic support program for the students who have been ARV-recipients and are nearing adulthood. The older students are referred to as interns and the younger ones are called novices. Their life together is orchestrated in a way that provides them with care, support, education and growth in character.
There are a few moments in life where you make profound discoveries that change your life forever. Although long in the making, these defining moments are what we remember when looking back. One of moments occurred to me six years ago at the 1000 Cups Coffee House in Kampala, Uganda. This discovery for me was not of deep spiritual importance but it did help to refine what became one of my most enduring interests, enjoying a good cup of coffee.
Attracted by a flyer offering a coffee safari, I figured that a place that could introduce you to the coffee process probably makes some pretty good coffee. My boda boda driver (motorcycle taxi) struggled to find the place from my vague description. Stepping through the door I liked the place instantly. It looked like what an artisan coffee shop in Africa should look like, complete with a rustic wooden setting and well arranged sacks of fresh roasted coffee beans.
There are a few moments in life where your experience collides with your interests, making you feel like it is a great time to be alive. Flying over Uganda this past week on our way to South Sudan provided one of these moments. Here’s what I wrote in my Field Notes shortly after we took off.
“I am so happy right now. I’m on an adventure and nothing makes me feel more alive than experiences like this. I am presently on an MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) flight from Entebbe, Uganda to Nimule, South Sudan. We are on a small 12 passenger plane. The seats are covered with a tough canvas and the controls look vintage but capable.
Stepping off the plane in Entebbe, Uganda, my immediate feeling was that I had arrived at my second home. I love being in East Africa and it feels great to be back. We spent our first day acclimating around Lake Victoria and preparing for our flight into Sudan the following day. One highlight of the day was enjoying a delightful dinner at Olubugo, a new restaurant in Entebbe built to support the admirable work of Aid Child in Uganda. Check out the great work that they are doing to care for vulnerable children at AidChild.org. Here are a few of the pictures of our first day in East Africa
I met my African queen and her name is Elizabeth. Seriously, I don’t think I have seen a cuter little girl since my little sister entered the world. I met Elizabeth at my last dinner in Uganda with Dickens, a good friend that I made on this trip, and his family at their home. Dickens recently planted a church in one of the neediest areas of Kampala. They began meeting as a small group under a tree and it has grown to the point where the people requested that he start a church.
Smoke rises from Kampala during the riots of September, 2009.
Everyone has heard the stories of problems in Africa. Sometimes I think it is all we think of when we hear about this continent. One of the questions that makes me internally roll my eyes is, “Africa, isn’t it dangerous over there?”
What we fail to consider is that Africa is a continent, not a country. It is very large, more than three times the size of the USA, and very diverse. There are politically unstable areas and peaceful areas, as there are in most parts of the world. There are certain themes, however, that emerge when one analyzes troubled areas and situations around this vast continent. The riots that just broke out in Kampala highlight one of the primary issues that continues to cause problems in Africa.
Sitting in a bus on the ride from Kigali, Rwanda to Kampala, Uganda.
After this experience I think I’m one step closer to being a true African. I took an eleven hour bus trip from Kigali to Kampala, all while riding on the floor. To be more specific, I was sitting on the engine cover, slowly cooking along the way.
I’ve never had trouble finding a seat on a bus here in East Africa but today when I showed up for the last buses to Kampala they were all full. Then a confident man strolled up asking if I was heading to Kampala and then motioning for me to follow him. Along the way he said something about Kampala Coach being the best bus and having air conditioning. For a few seconds I almost believed this sales pitch aimed at naive muzungus. I think what he meant by air conditioning was that the windows opened.