by Jonathan White, RMF Director of International Relations — Reporting from the Field (May 3rd 2010)

photo: Road to Tororo

28 hours of travel, layovers and in-flight entertainment and I finally land in Entebbe, Kampala airport bright and early at 7:30 am local time.

This is a trip of firsts for me, first trip to Uganda, first to Africa for that matter, and the first time representing RMF in the field, so I’m a little excited and nervous upon arrival to say the least. Coming in on our approach to Entebbe airport I look out the airplane window to see a beautiful pastel orange and pink sky, lush green gently rolling landscape dotted with small farms and towns and the edges of the enormous (Great Lakes enormous) Lake Victoria complete with dozens of little fishing canoes paddling out for their morning catch.

Fairly quick and painless sweep through immigration in the empty morning airport and I’m greeted with a big smile by Project Director Charles Naku and our driver and his close friend John “the Baptist” (John’s father is an ordained minister).  Stepping outside the terminal I’m greeted by a nice balmy 70 degree morning, much cooler than I’d expected a pleasant surprise.

photo: Baboons on the road

Even though Charles and John arrived driven to Kampala from Tororo (4 hours away) an entire day early by mistake (and my very confusing travel itinerary, which had me leaving SF on Saturday and arriving Monday which he couldn’t believe!) he and driver were in great spirits and full of questions about my travels.

After strategizing our day a bit, we decided to immediately get the processing of my Sudanese visa (heading to Sudan in a week and had to apply for visa in Kampala) started before we left town to make the 4 hour drive out to Tororo.

This as in all things embassy related turned out to be a bit of a wild goose chase…drove in around traffic packed roundabouts for an hour before we located the embassy, then started application only to discover we needed a passport sized photo, proceed to several more roundabouts, take photo, return, then sent off to a bank to pay fees, several more roundabouts….ahh the joys of visa bureaucracy.

photo: Charles and Sister Claire

While our driver was handling himself reasonably well, he was a bit overwhelmed from what I could tell as he is from a much smaller town and not used to the incredibly aggressive drivers and traffic of Kampala.

We finally hit the road our of Kampala around noon and slowly crept our way out of Kampala through a long dusty line of honking big rigs, hundreds of mini-van bus taxis, and thousands of bicycles and motorcycles with two or three on back (called boda-bodas).

The highlights of our 4 hour road trip to Tororo included passing through two rainforest preserves, a baboon sighting on the side of the road and passing through dozens of very lively roadside towns and markets.

photo: Gardening Mama Kevina

We ended our day with an early evening tour of the first of our initiatives in Uganda, the Mama Kevina Orphanage/Boarding School in Tororo. I was deliriously tired at this point; starting to sway on my feet a bit, but our host and head of the school, Sister Claire was overjoyed to see us and very helpfully offered some coffee and biscuits to keep us from falling over!

Charles and I were given a guided tour around the school’s property and many of it’s half finished buildings, introduced us to some students and described a dire new situation they have found themselves in this past year…This story deserves it’s own dispatch and report so stay tuned for a complete update on the Mama Kevina School story!

photo: Mama Kevina School Bakery and Office

Fast forward to a nice dinner with everyone at the serenely quiet hotel I was booked into, and I pretty much collapsed the moment my head hit the pillow.  Next step in this journey is leaving Tororo and making a 6 to 7 hour drive out to the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement to check in on our clinic and school support we provide to the Kenyan and Sudanese refugees.

More to come….

Find out more about Mama Kevina’s Secondary School

Find our more about the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement

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