We have made it to Lira! After very long travel journeys, the four of us (Nellie, Max, myself, and Saskia, a film student with us for the summer) connected on Tuesday night at a hotel in Entebbe which was surrounded by beautiful and loud yellow weaver birds. On Wednesday morning, our driver came to pick us up and take us through Kampala and up to Lira, a 6-hour drive. We passed many familiar places, including the Buganda palace and later the bridge crossing the white Nile river at the edge of Murchison Falls national park. In Kampala, the traffic was busy and crowded as usual. Intersections are typically negotiations with bodas (motorcycles) weaving in and out, pedestrians swimming through, and car horns blaring. As our driver said, “in Uganda, we drive by faith, not by sight.” Trust has indeed turned out to be an important part of our journey so far.
We arrived in Lira on Wednesday afternoon, and I finally got to see the CPU office and meet Jane and the others in person. Max and Nellie were so excited to return and greet old friends. We were reacquainted with living in “African time”: we spent a lot of time gathering, waiting, and being late, which us students agree is refreshing. After a trip into town and some creative engineering setting up our mosquito nets, we got settled into our apartment in junior quarters. We had dinner at Jane’s house (we even had cake for her son’s birthday) and then visited Isaac’s and Brenda’s house afterwards. Isaac told us a little bit about his story growing up without parents and how important forgiveness and faith has been in his life. As we improve our Langi, people in the community are very friendly and welcoming. Many people call out to Max when they see he has returned. We have found that breaking the ice with a few greetings in Langi is a great way to put someone at ease and start a conversation (in English once we run out of Langi phrases).
In the morning, we had a project meeting at the CPU office over rolexes (fried egg wrapped in chapati). Then we set out to town for various errands and lunch before getting caught in a torrential downpour. It’s the rainy season during a period of drought here, which means the afternoon rains are really important for the crops. We ducked under a nearby roof and that turned out to be a great way to meet some new friends who did the same.
We returned to CPU for our first meeting with the whole project team. The CPU team is wonderful and incredibly passionate. I think we are so lucky to have them as partners. We talked about the business of the program, including the funding and schedule. The official kickoff of the program has been delayed to next week due to a wedding in the CPU family on Saturday. Tomorrow, we will have a busy day of meeting with various people to solidify the structure of the program and make sure everything is ready for the launch.
Though there have been a couple setbacks in initiating the project, we are so excited to start out in the field soon. So much time and energy has gone into preparations thus far, and our careful planning now will help make sure the program runs smoothly. Sometimes, you have to drive by faith, not by sight.