When I first learned I’d be going to Uganda on my own, I’ll admit I was disappointed. I have only traveled with project teams and I have always loved the camaraderie that develops through the week, the friends I make each time. I felt I was losing an opportunity to enjoy that once again, and it took me a few weeks to see the other possibility. Instead of staying in guest quarters of some kind with a dozen other people, I’d be hosted in staff members’ homes. It makes for a smaller “team” but an excellent way to get to know other EMI staff deeper than I had a chance to at our World Staff Conference in 2016.
In all I stayed with three families. For my first two nights I was with the Meanses. Clarke and Erin have two kids and as a whole the family is a lot like ours: quiet as a quartet of geckos. This was an ideal way to recover (somewhat) from jet lag, of which I had a rather bad case. They kept me up on the first night with good conversation, which helped me sleep solidly. I mean, the staying up part helped me sleep, not the conversation. Their daughter drew me some artwork to take home. Also, they are from Florida and Erin made grits for breakfast one day and that was like heaven.
In Jinja I stayed with the Zimmermans. That’s where I had chapati pizza and more artwork from more cute kids. We streamed a few bits of Olympic coverage and Patrice made this thing with veggies and meat and it was like the best return to Whole30. There was also the night they took me out to a cool restaurant on the Nile where we ate under the trees and watched enormous bats fly out of the cliffs at sunset.
The last place I got to crash was at the Hoyt’s. They had hosted Joel when he was there last fall and we very quickly discovered we have the same sense of humor as well as similar philosophies on missions, raising kids, life in general. We had a lot of great conversations and laughs, including one night when I re-enacted the entire Miracle Max scene from The Princess Bride (it goes better when Joel is with me). Also, Melinda is from the south and therefore an excellent cook. One night they took me out to their favorite Thai restaurant and Melinda took me twice for iced coffee at Cafe Javas (yes, there is a food theme here too).
Then there is the practical stuff. I got to do laundry, which means not having to pack as much clothing, which is great when most of your suitcase real estate is dedicated to hauling in random stuff for people. I took books, drone parts, bike parts, more books, letters, a firewall, and a wallet. And I was able to get advice on dealing with African parasites and malaria as Melinda coached me on symptoms and took me to a pharmacy for the proper tests and medications. No, I don’t have malaria. Jury is still out on bilharzia. Google that one, but not while eating.
On a typical team trip I would have about seven nights in country, and I would be up late working for most or all of them. I’m usually gathering content during the day, and editing it by night. This time I had 12 nights and no need to work my content into anything before leaving. My nights were filled with conversation, games, laughs, journaling, and enjoying Uganda. Well, there was that one night I worked to edit all of Steve’s out-takes into a video so the Hoyts could have it before I left.
I also noticed something this time: I failed to take photos of all the best experiences, as I have done many other times locally and abroad lately. And there was good reason. I didn’t snap a selfie during my coffee dates with Melinda or dinners out with host families because we were talking and enjoying ourselves and not thinking of photos.
A few of our staff only do their travel and overseas office visits this way, not as part of a project team, but as solo venturers. It’s a different experience for sure, but one I have enjoyed enough that I will look forward to the next time I get to do it.
We are missionaries with Engineering Ministries International, based in Colorado Springs, and traveling around the globe to serve.
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