Uganda Travel Log: Day 4 – Journey to Mbale

Location: Mukono and Mbale, Uganda
Saturday, May 20, 2017

Journey to Mbale

This morning we had nothing to do at UCU, except get packed up and head for Mbale. It was really nice not to be running to something early in the morning. Instead, we just had to be ready to go by 10am.

I came in at about 7:30 to see if breakfast was ready yet, and they had mango juice, hard boiled eggs, mango slices, and muffins laid out. So, I made myself a mostly-fruit breakfast, added a meal bar from my stash, popped my anti-malarial medication, and got ready for the day — devotions, shower, dressed, packed, etc. Around 9, I took my plate back into the breakfast room to drop it off to be washed. But instead, the servers waved me over and wanted me to eat more. And there were two more covered dishes than there had been before, so I had to check it out. First, there were fried egg and meat sticks — I have no idea what they were called, but that describes them; beef and egg, rolled in some kind of crumb batter and fried. I didn’t want to be rude, so I took a small one. Then, the second plate… He’s describing what’s in the various dishes, and coming to this last one, he says, “… and some vegetables.” No kidding, my whole world lit up. I’ve been eating nothing but carbs since I got here — that’s all Ugandans eat — so I was SO excited. Vegetables. For breakfast. How will they prepare them? What will this be like? Anticipation building as he reaches for the lid to the dish. And … vegetables … are … are … veggie samosas … fried pockets of potatoes and spices … oh, yes, and with a few peas thrown in so that they can be called “veggie.” Of course, a potato’s technically a “veggie,” right? LOL

So, after all the hype about veggies, I left with only a fried egg and meat stick. How did things go so horribly wrong?

But I digress. Back to the day…

We left campus pretty much on-time (around 10am) to drive east. The traffic was absolutely crazy, and the roads were very challenging. Mostly unpaved. Potholes everywhere. I took a few pictures to try to give you an idea of what it’s like to drive in Uganda.

Uganda Scenes 5 Uganda Scenes 1 Uganda Scenes 2 Uganda Scenes 6

I also tried to post a few pictures of the scenery and of the people we passed while traveling just to give you a window into their lives as well.

 Uganda Scenes 4 Uganda Scenes 3 Uganda Scenes 8 Uganda Scenes 7

We stopped for lunch at a place Café Java, a smallish restaurant chain in East Africa with a huge menu and fairly modern venue. It was really good. I had my first latte since leaving Chicago, and vegetables! No, real vegetables … the kind that aren’t even fried. Veggies in the wrap, and steamed veggies as a side. It was glorious.

Finally VeggiesAnother interesting thing (besides finding vegetables) that happened on the way to Mbale is that we crossed over the Nile river, which originates in Uganda’s Lake Victoria and flows north to Egypt, in the process separating East and West Uganda. We couldn’t take pictures, because we were driving across a power generating dam and one of only two bridges in the entire country across the Nile, connecting the two halves of the nation. If someone were to blow up one of those dams, it would a) be a huge blow to power generation, and b) cut off half of the country from the other. So, lots of unfriendly-looking armed guards were watching cars go by ready to take your camera or phone. So, sadly, no pictures.

Not withstanding our exemplary behavior at the Nile, we were still stopped like 6 times by heavily armed police and soldiers, who briefly inspected our van, and each time allowed us to continue. Not sure exactly what they were looking for; I guess these were just checks designed to make sure they felt good about us — that they didn’t feel we were up to any trouble.

We arrived in Mbale at about 4:45, and setup shop in Jenga’s guest house (I’m in the monkey room … which is appropriate), and rushed to change because we were already late for meeting the bible club kids in town. We freshened up (quickly), divided into groups, and went to visit the kids and play some games with them. Jenga works with over 20 churches in the area to host “bible clubs” that meet every Saturday. There are something like 3,500 kids in the program. Basically, it’s a VBS-like construct. Not Sunday school, but more of an additional program where kids from all backgrounds — not just Christians — can come to get off the street, play games, sing Jesus songs, hear Bible stories, and generally be loved on. It seems like a really great program.

My group went to Mbale Kingdom Revival Church. We walked in the door and were greeted (quite unexpectedly) by clapping and cheers. There must have been 250 kids in the packed into the single room church. We each introduced ourselves, taught them Father Abraham, complete with crazy dance moves, and learned a song from them … with similar crazy dance moves. When we were getting ready to leave, I asked if I could take a picture, and the kids started pouring out of the church to wave to us. Check this out…

Kids Saying Goodbye

These kids made my heart swell. They were so beautiful, and they were so full of fun and excitement and joy. It was humbling to see how excited they got about our presence there. And that’s really been a theme on this trip… wherever we “Mzunga” go, it has been considered an honor to the locals that we visit them, and they have welcomed us with open arms.

Side thought…

Everywhere we go, the locals here call out “Mzungu.” This word today essentially means “white person.” But it was originally coined in the 18th century when Europeans arrived on the African continent as colonizers. The term actually means “someone who roams around” or “wanderer.” Kids call this out all the time when we’re driving or walking by, and gleefully respond when we wave at them. It’s really heartwarming, and one of the most enjoyable aspects of wandering around the streets of Mbale.

Okay, that’s pretty-much it for Saturday. After kids clubs, we came back to the house and ate dinner, had a little downtime, and then hit the sack. Church comes early tomorrow, and many of us are preaching. So, our downtime was largely devoted to sermon prep.

See you tomorrow!

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About Jeff Block

Lover and follower of Christ. Husband and father. Writer and seminary student. On a long journey, learning to swim with the current of God's love and walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day.
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