Saturday, May 23, 2009

Arriving in Uganda


Thursday – Friday – May 21, 22,
When we got to South Africa, we unboarded , got off the plane out in the middle of the tarmack and boarded a bus that took us to the airport terminal. When we got there, we realized that or stroller had not been outside the plane and so wondered what to do. We went on to security through the transfers area and asked him where we could go to find out about the stroller. He was very friendly and told us to back track to go to the luggage carousel and it would probably come out with all the luggage. But to do that we had to go through immigration, then customs and then through departures and then on to the gates. We found the luggage area and along with everyone else waited and waited for the luggage to come through. It did not til about 30 minutes later. Our stroller was not there. I was tempted to leave but knew I would really need it. We then found baggage inquires and looked over the left and I spotted our stroller over there in a pile of luggage. Happy we grabbed it and headed towards customs and immigration. We got through immigration with no problem but customs was another matter. I got my 5 lbs of cheese confiscated! I tried to explain to the officer but we are not going out of the airport. “Sorry m’am, the sign reads no cheese.” He asked me how much I had to pay for it in America and realized it was costly. He unwrapped the 5 layers of plastic foil and paper bags I had wrapped around it and admired it. He didn’t want to throw it away either. I told him, “It is sealed from America, and I am taking it to Uganda to friends who have a hard time buying cheese.” I know M’am, but the sign says no cheese, even that lady over there, can’t take her apples.” I looked over to my left to see a lady with a walmart bag full of about 5 apple cores and she was eating her last apple. I thought to myself, “I hope she stays near a bathroom, she’s gonna need it eating all those.” Sorry, back to the cheese. He would not give in and sadly and dramatically he threw it in the garbage. I didn’t look. It hurt to much knowing that it had first been thought a weapon and now it was confiscated and that our friends would never taste its fine flavor.
That done we left customs and walked to find a monitor to see what gate we had to leave from. We found a monitor but it did not list our flight as it was probably too early so we wandered around trying to figure out what airlines left from what area. The airport was huge! Some guy in a uniform asked us where we were flying to and so we told him SA airways and he told us to follow him. We did and he took us to the ticketing counter. Which was not where we needed to go. He asked for some money for walking us upstairs but I did not have any small change in any currency and sadly told him I couldn’t. A few minutes later he saw us and said, “you need to go there.” No I told him we already have our boarding passes and have no luggage.” We then found a food court to sit in and sign in on the internet and rest. We had no money and I really didn’t want to exchange a large amount in SA money. We walked more looking in shops and finally found a counter that pointed us in the direction to load our gates. All the walking was good because our feet and legs were swollen. I think we stopped at every toilet along the way. I guess that fluid was being released!
At one toilet, Maggie and this other woman got scolded by the toilet police because they did not flush and clean off the seat when they were finished. She made them go back and fix the problem. I got a lecture on how people come in the bathroom and leave messes and expect her -the Toilet police lady - to clean it up. You could even text the airport and tell them if you enjoyed their clean toilet area. We made sure every toilet we visited after that we flushed and picked up after ourselves.
We got to our gate and sat down. I was totally exhausted and fell asleep and Maggie had to wake me up when they started boarding. The plane was not full so right before we departed the gate I asked the stewardess if I could move and Maggie and I got seats where we could stretch out and we both crashed. I think they served a meal because I vaguely remember the stewardess lightly touching me and holding up a tray. I guess I said no and went back to sleep. She left me water and mango juice. I must have slept 2 hours which made the world of difference. The flight was about 4 hours and we actually arrived in Uganda 30 minutes early.
Of course, we had to walk to the terminal and once in there we had to fill out entry forms and a health form, I guess because of the swine flu stuff. I found this rather amusing. We had to fill out the same info as on the entry form but also check if we had had fever, cough or sore throat lately. We then had to take it to a table with 4 people who looked to be ready for a catastrophe. They were dressed in long white lab coats, huge face masks and you could only see their eyes, latex gloves and the women had these tiny little nurse hats on their heads.
Does a sore, dry throat from a VERY LONG flight count? I decided not to ask them. From there we headed to the visa area to have our previously bought visa stamped. From there on to collect our luggage which came out fairly quickly. We by passed customs and went out to find our ride. We did not see them. We went outside and nope, not there either. We tried to go back in as we had a bunch of people wanting us to use their taxi. But the Lady at the door told me to stay outside! Well, then I told Maggie, “let me see if my phone will work,” and I then spotted Scott and John inside. I yelled their names and they came out. Took our luggage and we were on our way. Of course it was dark by now, but the familiar smells and sounds of Uganda were welcoming in a weird way. Burning rubbish, diesel fuel smells, honking horns and lots of bar music and people cheering while watching a soccer game, and burning oil lamps along the way said welcome back!
We arrived at the guest house, got a snack and got unpacked as it wasn’t too late. Then crashed and slept all night with no problems.
Friday Morning I met with Scott and John and we went over the situations of the passports with them telling me what I would have to do that week. I won’t go into detail here but it will require me to meet with some high officials and plead my case for the two older ones. Their case is no longer a legal matter now but purely political in nature. They told me that I was going to meet with L. our attorney today. They had told him I would be coming. They tried to call him several times but to no avail so we decided to “bump” into his office. Wonderfully, it worked. He was not there, but John got hold of him and told him we were waiting. He sent someone to open his office and we waited for quiet some time. This gave John and I a chance to catch up a little and I found out that he will be getting married soon! Her name is Hope. Fitting name for a man marrying her who wants to use his life to advocate for the rights of children in his country.
L. came in and I kindly greeted him and congratulated him on his promotion in the court. We then discussed my plans and he wasn’t sure if we should take matters into our own hands but told us he would do some things today on Friday to help matters before we submitted the passport application for the baby on Monday. L. says we will have Isaiah’s passport by Friday next week.
Our plan is to work on the case of the baby first , get his passport and then work on the case of the kids because theirs is more complicated. John would return to get the files on Saturday after his law classes. So our trip to L.’s office was profitable. Isaiah is coming later today and will be staying with me from here on out. The kids will be coming later as well to visit. They will stay at their foster home as school starts Monday from holiday and we didn’t want to disturb their routine til we are certain when we are getting the passports.
Will post pics soon. Still reeling from jet lag.



1 comment:

Gaunt Family said...

Melissa,

I am so sorry we missed each other. I have not been gone from Uganda long enough to miss it quite yet, but sure I will soon. I will pray things go smoothly while you are there. I know God has gone before you. Can't wait to hear you are headed home.

Keltie (still in Nairobi)

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