Yesterday consisted of 85% travel. From a bus, to boda (motorcycle), to matatu (taxi), back to boda, back to matatu.
CURE does clinics in towns far away to catch up with past patients on their progress, and I go to document photographs of that progress! Yesterday's clinic was in Kampala, about 5 hours away, 6 with the current construction. Heather and I woke up at 4 am and were 'ready' (still half asleep, truly) to meet Edwin and catch the bus by 5. And so it began, we arrived the the bus station and made our way up the narrow stairs wiggling our way into our seats. We were so tired that I don’t remember much. All I know is that, similar to last year, I was fearful of my car sickness kicking in. The YY (bus) isn’t exactly car-sick-friendly. I began praying that Jesus would take that away, and protect my head and stomach for the next 6 hours. Sure enough, He followed through. I was in the middle seat, squished between Edwin and Heather, and we had our backpacks perched on our laps. Off we went, down the very bumpy roads. I was texting my sweet boyfriend because the time change finally came in handy, and that kept me awake for a good while. Shortly after, we all laid our heads back and began dozing off. It was really dark which made sleeping a little bit easier than normal, but it still wasn’t the most comfortable set up. I’ve never been one to sleep sitting up, but Jesus has been giving me all kinds of strange talents since I’ve been here. Sleeping while sitting straight up is on that list. We all seemed to sleep for a long time, being interrupted by a pot hole here and there. Once the sun came up it was game over, there was way too much to look at. From kids, to dogs, to construction, to landscapes, to boda drivers with full bed frames on their bike, to street vendors with vibrant fruit. I’ve always seemed to be a people watcher to some degree, and this set up was definitely ideal. I gazed out the window with wide eyes, watching life zoom by on the other side of the glass.
After 6 long hours we reached Kampala. We made it to the city and we were dropped off on a corner. From there we walked a ways to find a matatu. Africans have this game. I’m going to call it “African Jenga: Matatu Edition”. It’s actually quite impressive how many bodies they can squish into a small space. We hopped into the matatu that was going to take us to our next leg of the journey, the bodas. We bounced along the road for 20 minutes, and then reached the boda park. Imagine 30 motorcycles parked in one place, all with a driver who is desperately trying to get your attention so you will choose his bike. It is quite overwhelming. I usually just close my eyes and point, seems to be the easiest way of selection. We all quickly picked a boda, and off we went. Edwin first, then Heather, and I held up the rear. We held on tightly as our bikes climbed up the steep dirt road. A few minutes later we had finally made it to Katalemwa Clinic. We entered the gates and began looking for our CURE kids. We were looking for 8 specific children to update their profiles online. As I was taking a photo of one of our children, I felt a little tug on my hair. I turned around to see a little girl with the cutest smile that was missing a few teeth. She immediately recoiled and did a little nervous dance. I gave her a hug, learned her name was Linda, and told her it was okay to touch. From then on, she was constantly running her fingers through my ‘muzungu’ hair. Once she felt comfortable doing that, she stepped up her game and started tickling me. I’ll be honest, I’m not super ticklish, but somehow this little one make me jump. She was relentless. We managed to find 5 of our kiddos, and when it was time to go, I told Linda that we were leaving. She formed a little frown on her face followed by an extra long huge hug. She was a blessing to me yesterday, that smile melted me.
We left the clinic and walked down that steep dirt hill, looking for a boda at the bottom. We once again hopped on motorcycles and took off. This time we were headed to downtown Kampala to the Qualicell bus station. Guys, Ive tried. I tried last year, and again yesterday, but no amount of photos captures the craziness that is downtown Kampala, or the bus station. The bus station is a plot about 300 feet by 300 feet tucked in the busiest part of downtown, and I honestly don’t know how they do it. These buses plow through hundreds of people, back themselves into a space and pack people on them, all within a matter of minutes. The catch is that it is 100% up to you to not get hit by the massive pieces of metal on wheels trying to get situated. It kind of felt like I was a mole, in the whack-a-mole game I used to play as a kid. We were constantly jumping from spot to spot in an effort to not get squashed while waiting for our bus. There were multiple times Edwin, and some strangers, saved Heather and I from losing a foot, or being sandwiched between to YYs. Our bus arrived and we braced ourself for the tough mudded-like race that is the act of getting on the bus. To give you the best visual I can, I would compare it to those sand timers you use during a board game. One by one making it to the other side. You’re in luck if you can squeeze through everyone else in time to get on the bus and get a decent seat. Thankfully, Edwin managed to get to the door and create a blockade, allowing Heather and I to shuffle up the stairs quickly! Then, we rode. It took us an hour just to get out of the city, about 5 miles. Talk about stop and go traffic. We reached Jinja 2 hours later, and the bus dropped us once again at a boda park where we had to choose a bike. We all got on, and rode into town to The Source Cafe, where Heather was able to shop and we could relax a bit. After that, we walked to The Keep, a super fun restaurant that resembles a castle and has the best peanut butter banana milkshakes on the planet. After we ate, it was back to a boda and back to a taxi.
This is where it gets interesting. I have never felt like a fish, but for the two hour ride home I truly felt like a sardine. Im talking no elbow room, complete loss of circulation from my wait down, and a constant harsh gust of wind in my face, bugs included. We managed to fit, for this long 2 hour ride, 22 humans in an 11 person matatu. It was so squished that the conductor (man who collects the money) was sitting at my feet hunched over because there was no space. 22 people. That is 44 arms and 44 legs, all playing Jenga to try and and fit in this small cab for 2 hours of bumpy construction roads. It was quite the experience. Heather had been drinking out of a Smart Water water bottle all day, and it gave us quite the experience on this sardine ride. At one point we were woven together, and I felt a growing puddle on my leg. Through laughter I asked Heather if she felt it too, and all at once her eyes widened, and she said “MY WATER BOTTLE!”. We laughed so hard, for so long, because we couldn't wiggle around quickly enough to get the bottle before it soaked my leg. All in all, it was a hilarious experience. Despite people shouting in other languages to losing all feeling in our legs, we made it. We both booked it for our showers when we walked inside, still laughing at how hilarious the day had been.
Heather left this morning, and I must say that I was super bummed to see her go. Im thankful that she is moving to a town closer to me where a dear friend of mine lives, and I will be traveling to this Fall. She has truly become a precious friend that I admire deeply! Our long talks about life and relationships, our laughter over burnt beans and water bottles, and our love for kiddos made us instant friends.