Yes, we made it to Kajo-Keji. Barely in one piece.
3 hours waiting in the Raleigh/Durham airport due to two-hour delay
1 hour flight to New York
3 hours of madness in New York trying to find our luggage and another flight to Africa
7 hour layover
15 hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa
6 hour layover waiting for a flight to Uganda
4 hour flight to Uganda
13 hour van ride from Uganda to the Nile on unpaved and/or potholed roads.
1 hour ferry ride over the Nile
1 hour drive to Moyo to be picked up by another bus that would take us to the border.
2 hours waiting outdoors for that bus
1 hour drive to KajoKeji, South Sudan.
GRAND TOTAL: 57 hours of traveling
Oh oh! I didn’t tell you the best part. the 14 hour van ride took place in a van built to fit 5 people. There were 6 of us. Plus one big bag per person as well as all our carry-ons and personal items.
I didn’t take a picture of us in the van. Why? Because you couldn’t see us under the luggage filling the car! And we would have all looked at the camera with crazy zombie eyes.
Because that’s what we felt like. Zombies. That’s what a two-hour delay can do. It can turn a manageable trip into a nightmare.
Although looking back over the last 60 hours of my life makes me want to crawl under my suitcase and die, I will tell you there was a huge silver lining.
And his name is Lucas.
When we missed our plane from Uganda to South Sudan, we had no way of getting to the compound. We had no way of getting to the conference and helping the teachers. We had no plane.
A man named Lucas (below) was the only person who volunteered to drive us the 13 hours (through the night) in order to get us to the Nile, where we could take a ferry. 13 hours on severe roads seems like the worst option conceivable, which let me tell you, it was very close to the worst option conceivable. But the very worst option would be the inability to get to Kajo-Keji at all. The worst option was that without this 13 hour nightmare of a drive, we’d be truly stranded.
I didn’t know Lucas from Adam. And neither did the team. All we knew is that he had a remarkable, endearing accent and he knew Pastor David, the man in charge of the whole compound and the whole educational conference. So we had no choice but to trust him. And that was a good, good choice.
Lucas knew the roads of Uganda like the back of his hand. He knew which potholes could be skimmed over and which required the car to almost halt to a stop (which were a lot of them). He knew which dirt road led where. He knew when to go through a small city and when to stay on the dirt roads away from everything. There was instance after instance of massive dirt mounds covering up the main road, making it impossible for us to push ahead. But Lucas, in our tiny Toyota minivan, found a way around them in the middle of the night. He even found a way around the herds of random goats (sick!) and cows.
Thank God for Lucas. Seriously.
Our heads were crashing into the luggage, our backs were burning from the positions we were in, and the hours crept by so slow you thought time was running the wrong way. But all the while, in the back of our minds, we were thinking, “What in the world would we do in the middle of Uganda without Lucas?”
Better to be thrashing around for 13 hours headed where you need to go than stranded in the middle of Africa with no end in sight.
Once we got to the Nile, he asked for a picture with us, so Cole snapped one right before we boarded the ferry. And I added a picture of the potholes just to give you an idea of the roads there. And remember, what you see below is Uganda’s version of a paved road. I’ll let you use your imagination for what the dirt roads felt like.
So we arrived before nightfall. We couldn’t see straight. We stumbled out of the bus and Pastor David immediately sent us to shower and to rest. The people in the compound were sweet as tea (well, southern tea), however, I can’t really remember our conversations due to exhaustion. I hope I wasn’t rude.
I can remember taking the most amazing cold shower in the world. Cold water is all you want in the middle of Africa. And I remember eating rice and beans and passing out. And I remember a sweet lady who gave me a towel. I think her name is Alice.
Cole and I got the only room that has an adjoining bathroom that is western-style instead of Africa-style. We’re seriously counting our blessings, because that kind of room is high-class in Kajo-Keji. After we all showered we headed to the dining hall where there is wifi and the team emailed and called their loved ones.
Tomorrow starts our actual work and a good night’s sleep beckons us, so we must go. Hope it helps to know we’re here and we’re safe. And we owe it all to God’s grace in giving us the man named Lucas.
*photo credit for the potholes goes to lambanana.files.wordpress.com.