Monday, November 24, 2014

An eventful weekend!

Last weekend we needed to go to Kampala to buy some things for our house. Things like sinks and toilets and electrical switches and light sockets are not easy to find nearby since most houses in our area do not have indoor plumbing or electricity. Since we knew it would take quite a while to find, agree on and buy everything on our list, we asked the Foxes to spend Friday night with our kids, and we left after our morning classes. 

We drove to Kampala and after a quick lunch, went to a store with a big showroom full of plumbing fixtures, tiles, cabinets, etc. I was impressed to find this type of store in Uganda, but as we began walking around, we found that the prices were double or triple what we had budgeted for these items. Apparently if you want to buy something at a nice store, you pay a significant mark-up. We traveled around looking for several other shops, some that we were able to find, some that had apparently relocated. Traveling around Kampala in Friday afternoon traffic can be a bit tricky, particularly when you are not sure where you are going. 

After some time, we found several smaller stores in one area and were able to find some plumbing and electrical fixtures that were within our price range. Since we were spending the night in Kampala, we decided we would shop around a bit more in the morning and come back if we were going to buy those items. After navigating the Friday night Kampala traffic to get to the place where we were staying, we found that they did not have any rooms with bathrooms available. Then we found that the shower room near the room we were staying in was being renovated, and we would need to walk to another shower room if we wanted to bathe. Instead we just crashed knowing that we needed to get going early the next morning. 

The next morning we were meeting the "tile guy" who was going to advise us about getting good quality tile for the bathroom. He gave David directions for us to meet him. After finding him, he directed us up an alley to an area with several tile shops. We never would have found this place without him. After selecting some tile, we talked with him about other items that we were looking for. He directed us to a place further up the alley where a friend of his was working. This man was very helpful and brought us all kinds of things to consider. He brought a plastic chair for me and sent his guys to go get various things. They carried various sinks, faucets, toilets and even a bathtub to us in order for us to consider buying them. As he brought the items, if I was interested I bargained with him about the price until it was within our budget. After going back and forth several times while considering a specific item, he said something that I took as a complement. He said, "You really are Ugandan." I was pleased knowing that I wasn't just paying the "mzungu price" for these items. Above is the photo of our friendly negotiations. (Cultural side note: Since Kampala is a big city, it is more common and socially acceptable for women to wear pants, so I wore my jeans for the first time in months.) 

We left this alley area having purchased several items from the list, but still lacking  many others. At 2pm, after going to several other locations, walking around in the heat and bargaining, I was so exhausted and hungry that I knew it would be a bad idea to make any more decisions until I had eaten something. David drove us to a mall where we could get something to eat and also look at some other options for lighting. It was so good to sit and eat, and although we did not find anything to buy for our lighting needs, we did get some ideas about things we could make to save money on light fixtures. If you know me, you know I am always happy to find a way to save money. 

After lunch we went back to the industrial area to find some of the last items on our list. We found things within our price range that we are hoping and praying will hold up over time. After all of the house shopping was finished, we needed to go to a supermarket. It is the week of Thanksgiving and many of us on the missionary team are cooking special foods for our Thanksgiving celebration together. Many ingredients can only be found in Kampala so I had shopping lists from four people. By the end of my grocery shopping, I was spent and it was almost 7pm, so we just grabbed some samosas and a coke for dinner and began our drive back home. 

Early in our drive home I commented on how the traffic didn't seem as bad right around Kampala, but that soon changed. The trip from that grocery store home usually takes us about 2 hours, 3 when traffic is really bad. But last Saturday was  
another story. We drove for a little while in light traffic and then eventually came to a complete stop. We knew there had been road construction, but we thought it just must be narrowed down to one lane and the two directions were taking turns. Eventually no one was coming from the other direction and we had not moved forward for about an hour. It was 11pm, there are no street lights, and we were in our van loaded down with things for the house. Most of the other drivers had turned off their vehicles and seemed like they were going to sleep in their vehicle or got out and went for dinner or a place to sleep. It was clear that no one was moving forward that night. We had heard that there was another way to Jinja, but it was a very circuitous route and we didn't what to get lost on a back road in the middle of the night either. David sent a text to our team with an update, and thankfully Mark, our team leader, was still awake. He called and talked with David about the alternate route. They agreed it would be best for us to drive back west toward Kampala, northeast to Kayunga, southeast to Jinja, then west to Good Shepherd's Fold. We all agreed that it wouldn't be a great idea to spend the night on the road in a parked vehicle loaded with merchandise. 

Honestly, once we were moving again I had trouble staying awake, but David found his way and we made it home by a little after 2am. (The Foxes graciously stayed with our kids and spent the night here again.) At that point we unloaded only the "refrigerated items" from the grocery store, which we had put in a cooler, and then went to bed. 

We thought Sunday would be a more restful day after the craziness of the weekend, and it mostly was....until Zeke decided to try to fly. Our team here was so thoughtful and supportive on Sunday. Amy generously offered to have my kids and our usual Sunday lunch guests over after church so I wouldn't have to worry about a meal and David and I could rest. Normally I love our Sunday lunch routine, but it was so good to just eat some leftovers and rest a bit. In the afternoon Ezra and Zeke were playing outside while I was inside the house. I was talking with our neighbor Kim when I heard a loud noise from our van and Zeke starting to cry. I ran outside and found Zeke on the ground with a cape on. Here's what I could gather from the boys' stories and my observations. The boys had put on capes and were being some sort of super hero. Naturally they needed a hideout. So they climbed up the front of the van to the roof-rack, which is probably 8 feet above ground level. Zeke had some trouble getting up, so Ezra being a creative and helpful big brother, hooked a bungee cord onto the roof-rack and threw it down for Zeke to pull himself up. Here is the front of our van to help you picture this scenario. 
They were having a good time playing their super hero game until 3 year old Zeke wondered if he could really fly. Thankfully David had left the trunk (called the boot here) open to air out the van a bit after all the things we had brought back from Kampala. Zeke thought he should jump off the back of the roof-rack onto the raised trunk and then fly off. So the noise I had heard was the trunk slamming, Zeke falling 8 ft and crying because his feet hurt a little bit when he landed. Here is a photo of the van with the trunk up/opened.
Since Kim was right there she and I checked him over. She is so good with kids and he was showing her how he could walk and run fine within minutes after his fall. I just thanked God!!! There are so many ways that this incident could have gone very poorly, but Zeke had no broken bones and wasn't bleeding. Zeke said, "I have no blood!" Even a three year old knows that a fall like that should lead to some bleeding or something. After I was certain he was ok, I talked with the boys about some rules for their safety, like no going on the roof-rack without adult supervision (We do ride up there on safari trips), no jumping off the roof-rack, and no flying, which I thought might stop some other unanticipated dangerous ideas. I love my boys and their adventurous, creative minds, but I also want Zeke to make it to his 4th birthday. Here is a photo of me cuddling with my little superman when he was sick a week ago. 

As I reflect on the weekend, I can see how God graciously provided for us throughout the weekend. Sometimes his provision looked like keeping us safe. And sometimes it was helping us to grow in patience as we shopped and then sat in traffic for hours. His loving care does not mean that this life will always go smoothly, but that He will be working for our good, to make us more like Jesus through this life. (Romans 8:28-32)

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