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Uganda really is far away

Marty Smith
Special to the DailyQueen Elizabeth National Park
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FORT PORTAL, Uganda – Waiting for the Uganda flight to depart from Denver was strenuous at best. We sat on the tarmac for two hours while engineers tried to figure out what was wrong with our right engine. That repaired, we were on our way. The interior of the plane was badly in need of a remodel. Dave MacCleskey sat in front of me and I could see every move he made. You could feel the springs in the seats but what could you do. The plane was jam packed. There was one open seat in the back next to the restroom and it was carefully guarded by the adjacent passenger. So what was supposed to be a shorter than usual flight, close to seven hours, ended up being longer. We arrived in London almost 11 hours later. We couldn’t sleep much either. Nobody got more than a couple of hours rest, but David M. managed to keep a conversation going with Lisa, albeit largely one sided, for most of the trip.

Used airplane lotWe arrived in London and Lisa and I decided to take Luann and Amanda to the city to see the sights. David decided to stay at the airport and Belinda, who was in the worst shape, decided to get a hotel room and hopefully, some rest. I should have done the same. About halfway through the bus tour I started to fade, fast. At least it wasn’t raining. About eight hours later we made it back to Heathrow and headed for our gate. At the gate we waited for an hour then were led down a flight of stairs. Not that unusual. However, as we came around the last corner, we were greeted by a bus – not a plane as we expected. Everyone laughed as they got on. We took the bus from our gate to the plane which appeared as though it was parked in a used plane lot a mile from the gate. What was ironic was that there was no plane at our gate and no explanation. Needless to say the service and the equipment on British Airways left a lot to be desired.

Paved, for a while After another long night – I slept this time – we arrived in Kampala to a driving rain storm. We were greeted by a group of children and David and Yousef, our driver. Yousef and his brother Moses got the gear loaded and got soaked. The next evening was our official welcome to Uganda. What a treat. There were the ahadi kids (ahadi means “covenant” in Swahili) our group is taking care of, plus a 25-piece youth choir in costume that performed for us. They were amazing. They sang and danced incredibly. They were amazingly animated. We gave gifts to the kids and made some wonderful new friends. The next morning we were off to Fort Portal. Expecting the worst, we were pleasantly surprised. The road was graded and then paved. How wonderful. Then I learned that is was an election year. Our pleasure, however, was short lived. About an hour-and-a-half into our trip we hit a detour. I thought it would be a short one. In fact, it went on and on and on for probably 150 kilometers, which is more than 100 miles. It was worse than the old road.

Finally we arrived in Fort Portal and went directly to our guest house. It was different than last year. It was an former home of some very wealthy people. It’s an improvement over last year in some respects. The house is nicer and the service is better, but it’s not as homey.Impressive weddingThe evening we got here we were the special guest at the royal wedding of Prince David, the brother of the past king of Tooro. Tooro is thestate in western Uganda in which Fort Portal is located. It was a sight to behold – many hundreds of guest and all kinds of performers. The food was terrible and the cake was worse. We were asked to address the crowd – that was really strange – and David sung a song for the bride and groom. We took the kids and went home early.

The next day, Sunday, we went to an amazing church service. It made the one we went to last year seem tame. It was packed with children and adults – lots of singing and preaching, four hours worth, to be exact. This was the church that David MacCleskey literally planted. His church gave them 350,000 Ugandan shillings, about $175. That allowed them to put up a building with a sheet-metal roof and put up the walls, which were a combination of mud and papyrus. In six months they had 150 worshipers. Now that’s what I call growth.I apologize for not writing sooner but it has been terribly busy. I have not had a lot of energy either. More about that in the next installment.Vail, Colorado


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