uganda

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we arrived in Kampala in July 2014 right around the time ebola was beginning to make headlines. it was on our minds, obviously, as the news carried nothing but images of bodies in bags in the streets. or worse, just piled near the side of the road. but it wasn’t the people in Uganda I was worried about. no, it was riding on the many airplanes and many legs of the trip to and out of Africa that worried me. spending hours in close proximity inside a germ-infested tube is always the worst part of any trip … and we were jumping head-first into this adventure with no clue how it would all turn out. judging by the news, it couldn’t end well. it was doomsday. we were nuts for going. when we (my friend Curtis traveled with me) arrived in Kampala, the city was buzzing with activity. it never slowed. people stacked 2 and 3 deep whizzed by on boda-bodas. chickens darted alongside dirt roads that had been carved with deep gashes–ditches so deep a grown man could stand inside and only his shoulders and head would stick out. shop owners stood proudly next to meat that was rotting in the midday sun. cellular provider ads screamed from fresh, brightly painted buildings and buses overpiled with people and animals jockeyed for position in the fabulous mess of traffic. it was a city, for sure. alive and loud and dirty and gritty and full of character. from the top of the hill, our vantage point for the week, we sat in our hotel and heard the call to prayer several times a day and night. it was beautiful. it seemed too beautiful, actually … a welcome meant for kings and queens. we were ready for anything. or so we thought. you see, I’ve learned from a few of these work trips that sometimes you think you’re ready and you’re not. sometimes you think you can’t possibly be ready and you are. and sometimes it’s tough to predict what is going to happen … and you don’t know what happened for months or even years later. Africa is like this. sometimes it takes time. Africa has a way of changing people. it’s so cliche, but so true. it’s overwhelming, the amount of beauty and kindness and nature and genuine being. the people are happy. they want to touch you and talk to you and sing for you and take you to church and show you their babies and share with you their food. the children want to smile for you and hold your hand. they see your camera and they want to take your picture, too, so they hold their fingers up to their eye and “snap” a picture. we met so many of the 1,300 orphans at the Destiny Orphanage and School in Katende, Uganda, those two days during our visit. and I will tell you, without a doubt, they are happy and smart and healthy and being taken care of in such a loving, complete way. I was scared to go. I didn’t want to fall in love with every single last one of them and not be able to help. instead, I left there with a smile on my face and a positive story to share because there are people all over the world loving these children. I know we have children in our back yards who need help. we do. absolutely. and with any luck, many of them are getting the help they deserve as well. it was “finals week” while we visited the children at Destiny. when we walked into one of the classrooms, the children had drawn, in their notebooks and on a chalkboard at the head of the classroom, a human eye. it was thoroughly labeled and noted with the best handwriting I had seen in maybe ever. these were young students, maybe 10. 11. they were proud of their studies. and they should be. I was proud of them. I still am. this is yet another story that will stick with me through my lifetime. yet another example of why I have the best job in the world. the hugs. the high fives. the smiles. the memories. you can’t pay for that stuff. and me? I get paid to do this stuff. nuts, isn’t it?

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