Elections, Food, THE BODA, and PJ’s checkup

In the car on the way to take Abusolom home, I suddenly missed Emily, Jake, and Maddie so bad I thought that tears were going to start pouring out of my ears if I tried to swallow them down again. Oh, God, it is like a throbbing ache from my throat down to the pit of my stomach. It made me think of Florence, who has not seen her five-year-old Shama for over a year now. My Lord, I cannot imagine. I spoke with her about this when I returned home. She said it was good to talk to someone, that she felt I understood more than anyone else she’d spoken with about it—and I realized I DIDN’T really understand. Yes, the indefiniteness of this frightens me, makes me long for them differently than on trips when my return date is set, but to not see them for more than a YEAR—with no way to get to them! My Lord!

Just a few minutes ago a roach that I swear was a full two inches long just crawled across the floor of the bedroom. Yuck! Oh, another wild moment. In the car this morning, on the way to pick Abusolom up from his oldest son’s house, the radio was on. I was tuning it out, because it was all in Lugandan and the music was bee-boppy, when suddenly, in the middle of a song completely in Lugandan, I heard, “Ba-rack O-ba-ma. Ba-rack O-ba-ma!” It was a song about his inauguration the night before. Strange how excited they are about that here—because he is part African? Perhaps. Because it represents something they do not have, in truth something that is SO unfathomable to them they cannot imagine ever having it—a government that is constrained enough that one person does not stay in absolute power forever? I’m not sure, but I even saw a bumper sticker today that read: “A Ugandan for Obama.”

My sister called me on the way home yesterday, telling me that she’s flying from Nairobi to Uganda to see me this Saturday. That means so much I’m not even sure I can completely imagine it, maybe because if I do it won’t quite meet up to my expectations, or, maybe, like the return date that feels like it will never come, I’m afraid it will get postponed if I get too excited. I wonder if I could stay in the guesthouse for one of the nights with her—Patrick, too, maybe? That would be so awesome. I sound like a teenager wondering if she’s going to get asked to prom.

Woke up weak this morning. I’m not sure what I should eat, can eat, how much to eat. To be honest, I’m almost never HUNGRY. Either I’m a little stressed because we’re about to have a meeting or a court date (I think of it as involuntary fasting–“Okay, Lord, I can’t seem to eat, and I don’t want to worry—so I’ll pray”), or I’m hot–which doesn’t make me want to eat—or my stomach and gut are unhappy—which is much of the time lately. Thank God for Cipro. I wouldn’t mind not eating much, but it sometimes is an issue with my African friends. They took me to what they think of as an “American” kind of restaurant (one where a lot of muzungus eat that’s more expensive) yesterday, but the food was so heavy that I only ate half of my meal and took the rest home for someone else. Then, today, we went to a restaurant THEY would eat at (African food and cheap prices), and they fussed at me because I couldn’t eat all the food on my plate. “We are too concerned with the price we have paid to leave any on our plate,” Wilfred and Philip said. I understand that, but I can’t eat what my stomach won’t accept. They want to know why I eat very little meat. I tell them I don’t eat a whole lot of meat in the United States, that sometimes it upsets my stomach. “How about the intestines?” Wilfred asks. I shake my head. That would have me camping out permanently in the bathroom.

Enough about non-essentials, personal stuff. Yesterday it rained, hard, and the red water ran like raging rivers along the sides of the streets, and sometimes across them. This morning as I headed to the Surgery for Patrick’s second doctor appointment, I saw an entire settlement of houses with water three feet up their walls. Where are those people living until the water recedes? What has happened to the few things they have?

This morning. Patrick had his physical checkup (the one that he either passes or doesn’t that gets sent to the Embassy—big stuff!) at 8 a.m. At 7:15 we went to get in the car, but it wouldn’t start. So Wilfred and I trekked up the hill with Patrick, where he explained to a boda driver where I was going. Then Patrick and I climbed on (bodas are mopeds or motorcycles) and we were off. The last time I was in Africa I refused to ride one, and I came to Africa this time thinking I could do the same. NOT an option for all the places we have to go. I’ve gotten all right with it. I employ Patrick’s method. I do not look ahead at what the boda driver sees. Far too frightening. That’s how young Rachel Tendo from the kids’ home died a few months back. She got scared about an approaching bus, jumped off the boda to avoid it, and was hit by another vehicle. No, instead I place trust in the driver and watch the road surface (to know when bumps are coming) and the side scenery. I also place one arm firmly around Patrick and grip the seat back with the other hand, flexing my fingers every so once in a while so they don’t get cramped and unable to really grip. I try not to think of what I am doing, taking a child on a motorcycle, neither of us with helmets, and weaving in and out of traffic, on and off sidewalks, crossing traffic with no pattern that I can discern. I do the same when we take Patrick in the car and he stands in the front seat, no seatbelt, hanging on to the doorframe and looking out. “What would happen if Wilfred had to stop suddenly?” I think. And then I don’t answer myself.

So Patrick and I rode the boda all the way to the surgery—long way, and the driver got lost once and I was of no help to him, since I really don’t watch where we’re going when Wilfred drives (for reasons stated above). Finally, though, I realized we were on the road. “There it is!” And he took us across the street (hallelujah—not a street I would have wanted to cross on foot—four lanes of traffic) and I paid him extra for his troubles. On the ride there I had been concerned with the time (after the trouble with the car, we were late), with the price (what if we were charged again for this visit—did I still have enough money?), and with the checkup itself (what if the doctor didn’t clear him?). Definitely things that took my mind off the inherent dangers of the boda ride itself, but still worry. “Oh, Lord,” I murmured to Him at one point, “help me to remember this is all in Your plans, and I myself—with Patrick, too—are in Your loving hands. This is not completely working out the way I would have wanted—because I would be ready to head home now or early next week—but it is Your plan. Help me to trust—and trust—and trust.” There was no problem with our being late. We saw a kind, big, African doctor, who, just like Jackson two days before, was perfectly all right with Patrick’s being scared. He had me undress him first, which completely unnerved Patrick, and he began to cry, but I held him close and he quieted. Then the doctor checked his ears and heartbeat and lungs (all while I held him), and then we had to hold him down on the table so he could check Patrick’s throat and belly and privates. Only one issue emerged (which ,for Patrick’s privacy’s sake—later, when he actually cares—I won’t mention specifically), and the doctor said I could talk with Patrick’s pediatrician about that later. Except for a little bit of gunk in his throat and some slight pinkness in one ear, he was fine, and the doctor cleared him for adoption and told me he would send the paperwork on to the Embassy! Wonderful news—and I didn’t even have to pay again—the cost Tuesday covered both visits.

Philip met us at the Surgery, and we were headed on bodas over to the Embassy to REALLY get some answers when I realized I hadn’t brought my passport along. No one gets into the Embassy without ID. I knew that from my previous visit. So we headed to the taxi station instead, and we went back to Nansana and then headed down the hill to home.

Second miracle of the day: I called the Embassy when we arrived home, and on my second try I got someone who was REALLY willing—and able—to answer my questions. An American who walked me through the list of things we would need for the visa interview—and she confirmed that it was all right to have Patrick’s immunizations completed in the States (okay, begun AND completed). Of course, there are documents Dave needs to send—I really don’t understand why those aren’t part of the I-600A approval, but they aren’t. So good to know those things BEFORE the interview, though, rather than be informed of them right when I’m going to be able to taste the possibility of going home soon. So Philip and I went in search of internet—oh, it’s so slow at the cafés—it’s probably worth it for me to get a boda down to Speke Hotel to download work. I was completely unable to even get the U.S. government website to load on a computer, much less print documents from it, so I just sent the list to Dave and asked him to print them off, fill them out, and FedEx them to me since there is one document that must have his original signature on it anyway. More steps, Lord. This is one of those times when I can say that following You is downright HARD—and though there are many moments of joy in the journey, it feels as if I am besieged on every side at times, darts of paperwork and process constantly flying at me from directions I didn’t even expect. But You are so gracious, Lord, so gracious. Today at the doctor’s office, I realized that something had changed between Patrick and me. When he cried, I didn’t feel annoyed, I felt protective. When I held him, he somehow knew he was safe and cuddled even deeper into me. There was a different closeness between us, and that’s a gift straight from You. Thank You.

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