Sunsets and Penguins

I left my home and my family in South Carolina exactly one week ago to fly to Africa. The ultimate destination: Uganda. It would be my second visit to this beautiful country as part of a mission team with Call to Africa. I did not know exactly what would be involved in this specific trip, only that my camera and I were needed to once again share some incredible stories of despair, hope, need, unconditional love, darkness, and a light that shines so bright the darkness cannot survive in the midst of it.

Ready for whatever was needed, I packed my camera gear and my passport and some of the Ugandan attire I had picked up in Jinja two years ago and set my sights on the continent of Africa. I flew first to Johannesburg in South Africa and then caught a short flight over to Cape Town to visit a city whose streets I had dreamed of walking since I was 14 or 15 years old. Truly my visit to Cape Town was a bucket list item.

As I was booking flights around Africa and places to stay, I reminded myself I wasn’t getting any younger. Now was the time. If I was going to see Cape Town I might as well make the most of the incredibly long journey across the Atlantic to Uganda and some soon-to-expire Delta global upgrades for a bit of Cape Town adventure. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous as well as excited – both because what lay ahead was completely unknown in a land faraway. But, hey, you only live once, right?

At 49 years of age, I stood atop the plateau of Table Mountain, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, and let the South African wind blow through my hair and into my lungs. I stood on a rock at the ocean’s edge and watched the sun set over a land that has always been somewhat mystical in my mind. And I waded through crystal clear water very near the place that the Indian and Atlanta oceans exchange tides and watched an African penguin paddle by not more than two feet away. I am certain the penguins knew I was a professional photographer for they were actually posing for the camera!

If you’d like to check out some of my Cape Town photos, you can see those here. It truly is a magical, beautiful place, better than I ever dreamed. #noregrets

The next stop: Entebbe, Uganda. And this is where the romance of the trip comes to an end.

Oh my word, at about this point in the adventure I’m so over the flying! It’s only May, and I’ve already been to Taiwan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Uganda….not counting 2 trips to Portland, OR wedged in between.

It’s during that last hour from Cape Town to Addis Ababa when I’m watching the clock and that super short 35-minute layover dwindle down to nothing that my neck starts to really, really hurt, and I’m a bundle of tension. I start imagining the long night in Addis Ababa, stranded, maybe with no ability to communicate with anyone back home. Maybe I will be lost forever, or at least my luggage will. I start having flashbacks to the lost luggage of 2016 where I learned to live with two Ugandan dresses, deodorant, a toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste, a cheap plastic comb that tore out too much of my hair, and a bar of soap for shampoo when my luggage was lost for 5 (seemingly endless) days as we hightailed it across Uganda from east to west. I remind myself that I survived just fine and really some of the Ugandans that I met on that trip survive with less most of the time . No complaints. It is life. I need to get over myself. And besides, God’s got this. Whom or what shall I fear?

As it turned out, Ethiopian Air took good care of me and the other two mzungus (white people) that were connecting to Entebbe, holding the flight and shuttling us straight to the plane. Even the luggage made it, miraculously (which I was skeptical of until I saw it for myself. My type A be-in-control personality not trusting the airline personel.)

I was picked up at Entebbe airport at nearly 2:00 am by my dear friends Emmanuel and Josephine, whom I had met two years prior. I was so grateful to see familiar faces and get a hug from Mama Josephine! (Thank you, both, for staying up in the middle of the night to collect me and get me safely to Kampala!)

The next morning (which was really just about 4 hours later, in a zombie-like state) I met up with half of the Call to Africa team. Everyone was new to me – a bunch of Alabamans (this could be interesting…..). We got to know one another over a breakfast of eggs and croissants and lots and lots of coffee. I could already tell I was going to enjoy spending the next week and a half working with this group as we piled into our awaiting bus to make the journey to Jinja, another 2 hours north (or 4 hours, or whatever, depending upon traffic or anything else that might happen along the road ahead). Welcome to Uganda!

(If you want to read about my earlier trip across Uganda and the boda boda thing, the cow project, the encounter with a hippo, and more, check that out here. Otherwise stay tuned for my next post coming soon!)