Updated: Oct 7, 2021
Dusty, dirt roads shared by vehicles, mopeds, bicycles, and walkers. Wood scaffolding barely supports workers as they erect new buildings. Twenty year old vehicles considered new. Green banana bunches sold out front of shack storefronts. The sign at the first hotel reads, “Dear Guest/s, Your shoes will be cleaned at no cost! Inquire at the Reception!”
When I set foot on the tarmac as I descended the airplane steps in Uganda (July 2007), I fell to my knees and cried! I had always, always, always wanted to come to Africa - it pulled on my soul. The first thing I saw was a brilliant full moon, four times the size of the one I’d grown up with in the states. It was overwhelming and my heart filled with joy. How did I get here? I had begged and pleaded for a spot on this trip with my sister's church group from Ohio. They must have thought me a crazy heathen for crying at the moon, especially since I was the nonconformist outsider on the trip!
We were off to Masindi and a school building project that was years in the making. Our suitcases were filled with the clothes we thought appropriate for the climate, and school supplies. Mine had been filled with supplies from students from my own high school. We stayed in a dormitory style room in the back of the house of the school owner. She was proud to show us the indoor plumbing; a gray concrete shower area had been added since the last group of helpers had been there. Our bunk beds were each adored with mosquito netting - it was like having the canopy bed I had always wanted as a child. I loved listening to the rain at night and slept like a baby on the lumpy foam mattress. Our outside dining area had a tarp to keep the “scorching sun” off us. We ate goat, chicken, soups, oatmeal, eggs, and lots of fresh fruit - my favorite was passion fruit - until I started having digestion issues and learned that its effect was similar to drinking cranberry juice.
Our main projects were to paint the classrooms the last group had helped build, conjure up a wash bucket situation into each room, and create a library with a few desktop computers. There was some internet and electricity in the village; you just never knew
if it would work that day or not. We also purchased, treated and hung mosquito netting in the girls’ school dormitory. It was during our painting project that we learned TIA (this is Africa!) Time and business operates in an oral contract manner here, and everything is relative. Two o’clock, meant if we’re really lucky, sometime that afternoon. Usually it meant sometime that week, depending on the weather and road conditions. When the paint workers finally arrived, they soon realized that they didn't bring enough
paint for the job and opted to water down each gallon. Given the walls were gray concrete, many coats later we started to see the color show up. During our weekend relaxation trips, TIA became more evident as we experienced vehicle breakdowns in the “middle of nowhere”, but that’s for another story...
Here I was in a poorer part of the world and the people...welcoming, happy, grateful, curious, and courageous! So grateful I was to be reminded of another perspective on life. Thinking about “TIA” makes me slow down and appreciate what I have when life gets crazy!