Last night, the three of us back at another East African Airport celebrating an arrival
25 years and 3 days ago today, Scott, Luke (8 months old) and I landed at the old Entebbe airport. It was October 14, 1993. The airplane doors opened to the familiar smell of wood fires in the early morning air, and we walked across damp tarmac to the terminal. We cleared immigration and customs with our stack of trunks, and piled them outside to wait. And wait. And wonder. No one had come to meet us. Those were the days before cell phones, and we realized we were in a country where we knew very little with no plan B. A few taxi drivers tried to talk us into their hotels. We knew that the small Serge team sometimes stayed a night at the Sheraton (formerly a place of glory, but in the early 90's emerging from the days when guests had to scrounge for their own food to cook over charcoal on their balconies) because it was the sole place one could place an international phone call, from a wooden booth in the lobby. Lake flies swarmed, which I mistakenly thought were mosquitoes, sure that our baby was going to die of malaria before we could even get our bearings. After a couple of hours, Atwoki pulled up in the Herron's truck. They were all sick, and unable to come get us. It was the first of many times Atwoki would rescue us over the years!
We spent the first few days in the Namirembe Guest House, simple dorm-like rooms and group meals. Lynn L gave me a grocery list on a piece of yellow legal paper that I saved and used as a reference for many years: staples like flour and sugar by the kilogram, luxuries like toilet paper and powdered milk, we purchased from duka #24, a small open street-side shop in the massive Nakasero Market area. No malls, no grocery stores, no bottled water (it was boil and bring your own). While Lynn helped me (who had hardly ever even cooked) stock up for survival, Paul took Scott through the process of claiming the imported Landcruiser we had purchased months before. And then we left for Bundibugyo. The paved road ended just an hour outside Kampala, and from there it was a twisting, rutted, mud-holed trek west, about 12+ hours of driving that had to be split over two days.
When we pulled up to Bundimulinga, and stepped out, I clearly remember my very first thought: there are mountains! Of course I knew that from a map, but seeing a map symbol and the real thing are two very different experiences. The rainy season clarity revealed snow-capped peaks rising up behind our new home. For a girl from West Virginia, those mountains felt like a personal gift from God, unnecessary beauty and connection just because of God's love.
And so the story goes for 25 years, 1993 to 2018. Unnecessary grace, overflows of love. Right down to the detail that 25 years and 2 days later, that 8 month old would be returning to Africa as an orthopedic surgery intern to work on establishing a research collaboration, the three of us back in East Africa at an airport once again. Stay tuned for the next 25 . . . .
Sunday night the 14th, our actual 25 year mark, waffles and ice cream with the Ickes kids to celebrate
Last night on the way to the airport, Ethiopian with the Rigbys and the Niharts (Nairobi). Balm to the soul.
Miss Salem in 2018, the exact age of Luke in 1993.
This morning, entering Kijabe Hospital to greet old friends and connect Luke with the fine orthopedic surgeons who provide excellent care for the vulnerable in this place. Quite a full circle sort of day.