The beauty of nature seen through the lens of Rob Packer

28 Apr - Waking up in Uganda

28 April 2009


The plane arrived at Entebbe at 8:00 pm and as soon as you stepped out of the plane to the top of the stairs the warmth and humidity hit. Because of the time of night it was like being ambushed ? tiredness may also have contributed. Having waited in line at Customs as others took up to five minutes to be waved through, I was relieved that with the advice I?d received it took only 45 seconds to be welcomed into Uganda.

After collecting my luggage it was a relief to see my sister Sharon waiting for me. Also there to welcome me were Sam and Bingi ? who is almost like an older sister to Sharon. We then wove our way through streets crowded with bikes, motor-bikes and people walking by the light of cars driving with their high beams on. Surreal. After having something to eat we headed for the YMCA where another of the ever-present armed guards opened the security gate. Aahh, the relief of a hot shower!

Kampala Kampala


Next morning after waking I walked out to the balcony, (I?d carried my luggage up to the third floor the night before) and looked across the valley to see the mosque. It looked like a scene out of some Middle Eastern city. We were honoured to have breakfast with the National Leader of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God of Uganda who is a friend of Sharon?s, and a humble man.

After filling up with fuel, and paying AU$1.50 for diesel, we headed towards Iganga. There we were to meet a contact from Compassion who would direct us to the project where our sponsor child lives. After nearly an hour of travelling through the bush on ever-narrowing tracks we came to the project office, school and church. First we met the project director and pastor, both younger than I?d expected. After a few minutes ? I guess they had to check me out ? I finally me Bulyukani. He was very shy for quite a while, but gradually opened up. He is 15, short for his age, and has a beautiful smile.
After a decade of sponsoring him it was so amazing to meet this young man.

As a family we had bought a red and blue sports shirt with ?Australia? embroidered on it. After giving it to Buluykani, and encouraging him to try it on for size, it never came off again. Compassion Hut

After a time we drove on some even narrower tracks to where Bulyukani?s family lives. This is a grouping of half a dozen mud-walled, thatch-roofed huts with a couple of slightly larger buildings. The whole family ? aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, grand-parents and parents. The family had organised a formal program which included singing, dancing, speeches, a meal and gifts. It was a little overwhelming at times to see how much the whole family appreciate the support. Towards the end four other children who are also sponsored were asked to come forward. It was heartbreaking to see the mixture of shyness and deep sadness that they were not being visited by their sponsors. I think that was the moment when the real impact for Bulyukani hit me. The pastor of the local church was able to encourage Bulyukani to learn English so he could talk with me should I visit again. From the moment he put on the shirt Bulyukani never lost contact with me. He sat with his knee touching mine, and when we went for a walk his shoulder seemed attached to my arm. The unspoken bond was strong as he wound his way into my heart.

Finally we dragged ourselves away bearing gifts, that included a live chicken. We still had three hours travel to Soroti, and so arrived in the dark. It had been a long, emotional day. I guess some of that was due to jet-lag.

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