i lingered a little too long in bed this morning trying to finish reading a very interesting novel and therefore did not have time to drink my coffee at home. this is an important element to the story that follows below. (for this human being to function properly she needs coffee. lots of it.)
being decidedly “old-fashioned” in various ways i have acquired an old-fashioned pen-pal. (she’s not really old-fashioned. or old, for that matter. so the pen-pal is not the object of the adjective of old-fashioned. the having of an actual pen-pal to whom one writes handwritten letters and sends with a stamp instead of a click, is what is meant by “old-fashioned.” just to clear that up.)
she is a fellow duke-grad who has recently moved to uganda as a part of her life of ministry.
while uganda is a “small” country, kampala is quite far from kotido, especially considering the road conditions (or lack thereof) and state of public transportation on said roads.
seconds after this conversation was had (via text message/sms, of course) i sat myself down to write my first installment card.
having written a heart-felt and delightful card (hum, maybe) i affixed a stamp that i had previously purchased in kampala and set out to find the post office. (yes, you are correct in wondering, “gee, haven’t you been in kotido for over nine months now? and you don’t know where the post office is?” it is not that i do not know WHERE the post office is, but it is really more of a question of WHEN is the post office open? i have never seen it open and no one really seems to be able to answer that question…)
i inquired after several people around my office and the diocese to ask if anyone else was going to the post office, of if they had the magic knowledge of when it would be open. no one seemed to be planning to mail anything nor did anyone seem to know when the post office would be open. today, if ever…
i returned the letter to my office desk where i promptly forgot about it until friday around noon. i took the cute little card in hand and set off to the diocese’s development office which is larger and actually staffed. (i’ve been the only church of uganda employee around our offices since last thursday morning…) i was told that it would have to go by airplane (MAF which is the missionary aviation fellowship) to kampala and then be mailed from there.
i saw this slightly as defeat, since i have now affixed a stamp for a journey that will not be paid for by said stamp. drat. this is only compounded by the rigamarole i went through this morning to get said card onto said airplane headed to kampala today.
MAF comes to kotido every monday, wednesday and friday morning around 10:00–so this morning i headed with little card over to the development office to see if i could put it in with the things that they were sending, or if someone from the diocese was going to the airstrip and then i could just send it directly.
if only things were truly that easy.
the first time i ventured to the office, no one was there. so i was walking away when i heard rita talking to someone else. i whipped around and tried to catch her attention, but she was talking lively to someone else. nancy was coming up the path so she and i talked for a few minutes and i made my inquiry to her as well. she didn’t really have much to say on the matter to me, but clipped something off to rita in ngakarimajong that i didn’t really catch much of.
rita then ran over to the accounts office, came running back with some envelopes in hand and zipped past me into the development office. she flung open the cabinet (i should mention that rita is generally very calm and not prone to fling things about) and rummaged around for something.
when she turned around to face nancy and i again she had a cute yellow bag in her hands–she was shoving the envelopes in said cute yellow bag toward me and shouted, “OXFAM!”
i was too busy studying this sweet bag made from a yellow pillowcase with green letters about two inches tall hand-stitched to the outside that say “kotido” to realize that she was a) handing something to me and b) ordering me to take it to oxfam. stat.
after the shock subsided i took the bag and asked hesitantly,
“you… want… me… to…. take this… to… oxfam?”
“yes.” was the stereo reply i received from rita and nancy.
it was at this point i remembered the coffee that was now probably unfortunately far too cool for my taste awaiting me on my desk. i hesitated between turning left for a trip to my office to grab my coffee (it wouldn’t be the first time i walked around kotido drinking my morning coffee out of a real coffee cup) or go straight towards the exit of the compound and towards oxfam.
while i was deciding i heard “OXFAM!” barked at me from the veranda of the development office, so option one it was. straight away. oxfam. here i go. on foot.
it was maybe 9:35 and already getting pretty hot. i was contemplating just going back for my vehicle and taking an adventure (with my coffee,thank you.) to the airstrip personally when an oxfam vehicle turned the corner and was coming towards me.
“what luck!” i thought. i waved the yellow bag in the air, thinking surely its the universal symbol for “this is a mail bag, you are going to the airstrip and should therefore take this with you, because you are a kind and wonderful human being.”
instead, the oxfam driver waved at me as if i had greeted him.
i waved/flailed at the driver as he approached (going at a fairly fast speed, i might say) and he took this for another, more energetic greeting and waved back.
i then had a flash of brilliance and made the “come here” gesture with my hand (arm straight out, palm down, make grabbing gesture with arm still straight out). and he stopped. (what luck!)
i walked up to the passenger side door and opened it before he had a chance to roll down the window–we went through the formality of greeting and i then inquired as to if he were indeed going to the airstrip and would he be ever-so-kind as to take this mail bag with him.
he said he wasn’t (crap) but picked up his walkie-talkie (sweet) and asked who was going and then asked if they would pass by the church of uganda compound for a passenger. he didn’t even say “mzungu” (white person) which won him, and thereby oxfam, major points in my book. i thanked him (probably more than i should have) and then walked back to the gate to await the newly redirected second oxfam vehicle.
the vehicle going to the airstrip, driven by a fellow i would shortly learn is called francis, actually beat me to the gate, so i ran the last few meters–becoming every more aware that i still have not had any coffee yet.
francis and i greeted each other and exchanged pleasantries before i asked the favor. he seemed a little disappointed that i wasn’t going to the airstrip, just this little bag of mail–sorry, dude.
with that, he was off to the airstrip with a little bag of mail headed for kampala and i was off to my office to finally have my coffee, which thankfully, wasn’t as cold as i was expecting it to be after all that drama. hurrah.