Monday, May 14, 2012

First Impressions

We're in Africa.  No, strike that.  We LIVE in Africa.  Wow.  It's been almost one month since we left our families and friends back in Canada and headed here to Uganda to work with MAF.  I have thought about posting here several times in the past weeks, but I wanted to have a clear idea of what I should say.  Now I find that the ideas aren't really any clearer, but I need to do some writing before some of these things fade into "normal".  Let me think back...

As our airplane descended on approach into Entebbe International Airport, the sun continued it's rise into the African sky.  Our view out the windows of the aircraft shows us that the ground fog is beginning to burn off and reveal to us more and more of the surrounding landscape.  To the east, we began to see hilltops which are covered with what appears to be housing.  As I look out the airplane windows I am surprised to see some "sky-scrapers", really not more than perhaps 3 story buildings, but when set against the backdrop of single story residential buildings they loom large out of the fading mist in the middle of the city.  Miles continue to roll past and there is no break in the vast spread of red clay tile roofs and roads which appeared to be almost living objects, moving in all directions with a vast cacophony of motorbikes, cars, and taxis.  I feel the shape of the wings changing and the airplane pitch to compensate with the increase in lift as our pilot lowers the flaps for landing.  My ears pick out the sound of the landing gear motors running, and I feel a small shudder in the floor as the wheels lock in the extended position.  Power back, nose up, wait... wait... wait...          THUMP.  We are in Uganda.

My curiosity and desire to see this place that we now call home almost overwhelms me as we roll out on the runway.  I turn to my children.  "Welcome home kids."  They smile back at me, also allowing the excitement to flood their bodies with renewed energy.  We turn onto the taxiway, and as we taxi back to the apron to disembark I finally get a chance to see Africa up close.  The dirt is red.  I smile.  Knowing this fact and seeing it first hand are two totally different things.  I see my first Bota-bota (motorbike) roll by on the road across the fence that runs parallel to the runway, no doubt transporting somebody at top speed from somewhere where they were to somewhere they are going.  We taxi past several African women who are walking on the same road.  They carry large baskets full of bananas and other fruit on their heads.  I wonder to myself how they lift those onto their heads, and how they plan to take them off.  We pull onto the apron and the plane slowly rolls to a stop.  We have arrived.

We collect our things and wait quasi-patiently to disembark the aircraft.  As I step out the door and onto the stairs, the heat and humidity smack me in the face like a wet noodle.  I pause briefly, then decide that yes, I love it.  I actually prefer this heat and humidity to the dry heat that we get in Canada during the summer.  We head across the apron to the immigration place.  I spot two pilots who are standing just outside the doorway to immigration.  I smile yet again.  They are our welcoming committee.  Because we are pilots, we have security clearance that allows us airside access at the airport.  They have come airside to assist us through immigration and customs.  We say "Hi." and I wonder what kind of first impression that I have made on my colleagues.  Do they see a short, slightly overweight guy and wonder if I have what it takes to do this?  Oh well, we'll see.  My first impression of them is one of differing accents.  One Swiss German and one English.  I will soon learn that there are many more accents to learn here, the Luganda one being the most common.

With the help from our new friends, we clear customs in a jiffy and pile our things into the two Toyota Land Cruiser Prada's that they have come in.  We leave the airport and head out on the road.  I have several thoughts flowing through my mind as we cruise down the road.  The first is that this traffic isn't so bad.  I will soon think otherwise.  The second is that these roads aren't bad at all.  I will soon learn that this is an exception, not a rule.  As we drive, I attempt to make conversation with Greg, one of our new pilot friends.  I soon wonder if he thinks that I am mentally challenged in some way, and if MAF has made a grievous error in sending us here, as in my tired state everything is taking a long, long time to be processed through my mind.  I feel close to how I've always imagined that being drunk would feel.  Even though it is early morning I can't wait to get some sleep.  Six hours in three days just doesn't so it for me any more.  Actually, I don't think that six hours of sleep in three days has ever "done it" for me.

The mass of humanity begins to blend together, and I am having a difficult time keeping from doing the "I'm way too tired" head bob.  Then Greg says something that snaps me back into wakefulness as we round a corner.  "This is your street."  Suddenly everything is new again.  One of my first thoughts, "This is a street?" followed closely by hundreds of split second thoughts that flash through my mind for the remaining minute of our journey.  I wonder who each of these people are who I now see.  "Are they my neighbors?"  "Where are they from?"  "Where are they going?"  "Will I get to know them?"  "Do these people speak English?"  "Wow, this is a narrow road."  "Wow, these are deep, sharp ditches."  "Which is our house?"  These and many more thoughts crowd into my mind as we bump over the numerous speed bumps on "our street".  Then Greg turns into a driveway and comes to a halt in front of a gate.  "This is your place!" he says as he gives the horn a honk.  Before I can reason through why he is honking at our gate and then just sitting there, someone opens the gate from the inside and we drive through them, getting our first look at our new home.

2 comments:

  1. Don't worry Dallas, first impressions aside, you have what it takes. You tell them that! Good post.

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  2. Wow, beautifully written. I love the 'feeling' descriptions - so honest and real and I can totally connect with them. Anyways, God doesn't make mistakes - you have followed His call - so are right where you should be :) . Thanks for taking us along in this small way.
    Christine Z

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