Uganda Travel Log: Day 10 – Traveling Cross Country

Location: Mbale to Mukono to Kampala, Uganda
Friday, May 26, 2017

Scenic Uganda

Today, we leave MBale. We got up early, enjoyed breakfast at the guest house, packed everything onto the bus, then walked next door to the JENGA main office to participate in the first few hours of their all-day staff meeting. The local JENGA team meets every Friday morning to fast and pray and worship together, and once a month, they expand this time together into an all-day training and planning session. In addition to prayer and praise, they use this time to learn and grow personally and to advance the ministry.

This month, the topic is leadership. After some prayer and worship time, Vincent (one of the leaders of the ministry) presented concrete steps to becoming a better leader. It was a very interesting a valuable session. He focused on two aspects of leadership which I agree are essential: vision-casting and influence. Then Amanda (our team leader) presented on the characteristics of a successful leader. When it was time for our team to leave (around lunch time), we gathered to pray for one another as a formal means for the JENGA team to send the US team back out from Mbale to return home after a week of ministry together. It was such a wonderful time of prayer. The JENGA team encircled us, laid hands on us, and prayed. Then we switched places. Then we hugged, some wept and everyone thanked God for one another. It was touching … and extremely encouraging. One of my favorite parts of the trip.

Before we left, we had the opportunity to do some shopping – buying items which support the various ministries and peoples around the Mbale area. I bought a tote bag for Faith (can’t have enough of those) and was especially excited about buying coffee, so picked up a couple of bags of that. Yum. Can’t wait to crack those puppies open!

Aiden, one of the JENGA volunteers (and who seemed to be the “unofficial official” photographer of the group) also took this fantastic group picture of us as we were gathering up preparing to leave…

Group Picture at JENGA

After we left JENGA, we stopped in town for some traditional Ugandan lunch (I think I’m gonna be okay leaving matoke and chipati behind), and then basically spent the rest of the day in the car traveling west. We drove back to Mukoto to drop off our Ugandan friends from UCU, which was another tearful goodbye, then we forged ahead to Kampala, where we’ll be staying the remainder of the trip to rest, share, shop, be tourists, and otherwise begin the transition back to our lives in the US. On the bus, driving out from Mbale, the Ugandan students gave a farewell address of sorts. They went around the circle describing something they appreciate about each of the American team members. It was very well done and very moving, and contributed strongly to the tearful nature of our mutual goodbyes.

Here’s a map of our route today, for the interested. Look for the gray dashed line in the SE quadrant of the country. Now that I see the image embedded, it’s not as bold and obvious as I would have liked, but it’ll do. Sorry about that.

uganda map 1

I find stuff like this fascinating. Note, for example, how big Lake Victoria is and that it is the head of the Nile River (at Jinja). From there, the Nile flows north (very unusual) up to Egypt and empties into the Mediterranean Sea. Also note that where we were in Mbale is just on the other side of the mountains from Kenya (the border runs right through the mountains in which we were routinely adventuring). In fact, at one point on the trip, we passed a crowd of pilgrims from Kenya on their way to visit the Okuzimba shrine (where the Christian missionaries were martyred, and which we toured last Friday).

Also on the bus, Mandy, one of the Ugandans from UCU, taught us a new card game that I really like. This actually took place on the bus ride to Mbale, but I thought I’d share it today, since this entry is fairly short.

matatuThe game is called “Matatu.” It’s very similar to Uno, but it’s played with a deck of poker cards. It’s a little spicier than Uno, tho, and I really liked it. You deal each player 5 cards, then flip a card from the deck to determine the end-game card. Whatever suite comes up for that card, the 7 of that suite ends the game. Just like Uno, you must play the same suite or number. Aces are wild, twos are draw two, threes are draw three, eights are skips, and jacks are reverses. If I play a two card, you must draw two, unless you have a two as well. If you play your two on top of mine, then it “chains.” This can be done up to all four 2’s or 3’s. When you get down to 2 cards, you must say “warning” and when you get down to 1 card, you must say “card.” If someone says either of these before you do, you have to draw 5 cards. If a person runs out of cards, the other players keep playing until the end-game card is played. When it is, everyone counts their cards, and lowest score wins. Cards count as follows: A = 50, 2 = 20, J = 11, Q = 12, K = 15, and other cards are face value.

In case you’re interested, a version of Matatu exists for Apple and Android devices.

On the way across country, we stopped at a gas station for snacks. The good news is: snacks and shared. The bad news is: everyone got sugar snacks, including me — except one of the Ugandans who invested in Pringles, but didn’t share. It was horrible. I’ve eaten so badly on this trip, and this was like asking for a diabetic coma! I seriously doubt there was a single cheeseburger’s worth of actual nutrients shared among the 17 of us. Sad panda.

Cafe JavaBut a few hours later, we stopped at Café Java again for dinner, which was fantastic. Again, I had vegetables and grilled chicken. YES! I love this place. So many options, all good food. Good coffee. Clean restrooms. Etc.

We finally got back to the hotel we stayed at the first night after we arrived – the Namirembe Guest House – about 10pm. Of course, everyone wanted to play cards, so we did for a while. But they slept on the bus ride far more than I did (thank God for audiobooks), so I was pretty wiped. And I thank God I fell asleep easily again, even though we had transitioned to a new place.


Image credit:
1) Group picture – Aiden Patrick
2) Matatu – Google Play store
3) Others are mine
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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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