We landed in Uganda at 9:45pm Saturday, July 18th! Here is an update on what’s been doing on the last two’ish weeks.
Travel to Uganda
Packing was CRAZY! Somehow we got all our stuff into our bags and bins, but we weren’t able to make it in 6 bags. We checked one extra bag and have another “extra things” backpack that someone is bring us in several months that has stuff we wanted but didn’t “need” (which is really all our stuff, right?). We stayed up the whole night before our flight to pack and get each bag/bin just under 50 lbs. Jesse’s parents made us breakfast that morning, and then friends of ours (and their brand-new baby girl!) that have been mentoring us as we prepare for Uganda picked us up around 11am and drove us to the airport.
Halfway to the airport, Jesse’s parents noticed that we had forgotten Rachel’s laptop, and they actually drove all the way to airport to bring it to us! SO helpful! While they were driving up to us, we checked in our insane amount of bags and caused a little bit of a scene. People were asking if we were moving or delivering things to some far-off land…I guess we were doing both!
After having to run through the Detroit airport and hardly sleeping during our 3 flights over 27 hours of travel…we arrived in Uganda where Lumi’s CEO, Thomas, picked us up from the airport!
After falling asleep around 3am on Sunday, we slept in until 1pm with a 1-2 hours awake in the night. We had lunch with another WorldVenture missionary who lives in Kampala. On our way to lunch, I (Rachel) started to realize how much Kampala has grown and changed since I was here 5 years ago. After lunch, Thomas showed us some of the stores where we can buy groceries, appliances, etc. This included visiting Uganda’s newest mall which has SO many new American/imported things. It even had washing machines and dryers for sale!
Monday – We met with Lumi’s lawyer in downtown Kampala (Ugandan), and Jesse saw his first “trash bird”…in a dumpster.
We also got to meet James (Ugandan), who was one of the Lumi staff members that was in our presentation (if you saw that). It was great to finally meet him. We’ve been working with him pretty much every day since we got here, and he is a great co-worker. We are excited to spend more time with him over the next several years.
In the afternoon, we got Ugandan phone numbers, and learned where other Kampala stores are located. We had lunch with the Field Director for WorldVenture, where we briefly discussed WV Uganda field policies and who to contact if we have questions, etc. In the evening, WorldVenture held a Welcome BBQ for us! We got to met many of the WV people in the field. It was exciting to hear about what each of them do in Uganda, where they live here, and where they are originally from.
Tuesday – We met with Lumi’s accountant (Ugandan), and had lunch with another WorldVenture missionary, Catherine Coone. She has been working in the Gulu area for a long time. She works with children through feeding programs, school sponsorship programs, and will be building a school soon. Another couple from Denver that Jesse and I have become good friends with will be coming to work with her soon (trekkingwiththeflikweerts.wordpress.com). Later, we visited a company in Kampala that imports solar equipment (generally for larger-scale systems than Lumi). It is run by an Indian family who grew up in Kenya, and the husband has his Masters degree in Electrical Engineering from the UK. They are very friendly and helpful. We’ll be training with them in about two weeks.
Wednesday – We were supposed to leave for Gulu, but had a last minute cancellation since some of the products we were going to bring with us were held up in the warehouse. We spent the day driving around and getting things together for our trip up to Gulu, as well as trying to get Jesse listed as a signatory on the Lumi bank account. Unfortunately, there are about 4 or 5 forms/letters/certificates that we need to show to get that done, and each time we visit the bank, there seems to be one more thing we need.
Thursday – In the morning, we packed the car with products for Lumi and go to meet David (Ugandan) who works with James for Lumi. We drove to Gulu with Thomas and James from 11am to 5pm.
Then we unloaded the car at the office and meet staff there.
After checking into the hotel, we ordered dinner and after waiting 2 hours, it finally arrived. =/
Friday – In the morning, we worked on anti-tampering processes with different products in the office. In the afternoon, Thomas went with us to meet a real estate broker who showed us over 10 houses! There was a wide variety available, but many shared a compound (walled yard) with other homes (which isn’t ideal, but is do-able). The homes that had their own compound were outside our budget. We will keep looking, and since prices here are all negotiable, we hope that over time we can get some of the prices to go down.
Saturday – In the morning, we worked more on the anti-tampering processes and Thomas gave Jesse and I a Lumi 101 session where we used our potential house as a case study for designing a solar system for an large electrical demand home. In the afternoon, we visited one more house.
Sunday – We attended our first Gulu church service! After service, we met with the Pastors and walked around the property. We found out about an American who keeps water well drilling equipment in one of the churches sheds. He is back in America now, but hopefully I’ll get to connect with him soon and learn more about what he is doing. In the afternoon we saw one more house.
Monday – In the morning, we had an on-line, webinar-style training for 4 hours with a company Lumi may partner with. We learned that doing an on-line training from downtown Gulu can be very problematic. We had the internet drop out 2 or 3 times on our side (and once on their side, as they are in Kenya). We literally had an impromptu parade with a drum line pass in front of the store, and with so many generators running outside and general traffic, it was just hard to hear. There were at least 4 different accents on the training as well (Indian, British, Ugandan, and American). I’m impressed that everyone was able to communicate so well considering all those factors. In the afternoon, we looked at two more houses with our broker, but we are beginning to think that he has shown us all the available properties since he is now saying that he doesn’t like some of the properties he previously showed us or that random things are wrong with those properties. In Uganda, people communicate indirectly to save face (or to prevent shaming themselves or others), so I don’t think our broker would say that he has no more houses to show us.
Tuesday – We took the morning off and had a nap! In the afternoon, we meet with a missionary family about designing a solar system for their home and special needs school in Gulu. Then we worked from a restaurant for a few hours, and visited two more homes with our broker.
Wednesday – We worked in the office in the morning, then headed back down to Kampala. Jesse even got to practice his driving during part of it!.
“You say goodbye, I say hello”
We met so many other expat (expatriates: people who live outside of their native country…in this case, living in Uganda) families at meals and around town. One sad thing, is that while we are arriving to Gulu, it seems that many are leaving. When we meet expats here, they always ask when you got here, and how long you’ll be here. Then they say when they are leaving. It is almost like living in a hotel. No one just “lives” here. Everyone is here for some amount of time that they agreed to with their agency or group. Also, most of the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and UN staff have left or are leaving since the war here ended about 10 years ago and most groups were working with issues around the war. Now is the time for businesses to come in, but that means the NGO expats are leaving. In many ways, it seems like this is the part of the development curve where the ball can get dropped. Jesse and I are truly excited to be here at this time to help bring Gulu from stabilized to growing.
Remembering what brought us here
During one of our house hunt visits, the Ugandan man showing us the house who worked for the landlord asked what we do, and we told him about Lumi. He got so excited when we mentioned the name of the business. He said that his home village has been discussing Lumi and asking why Lumi isn’t in their village. He said that he thinks that these lights from Lumi are the most needed thing for villages right now. He told us that when we are ready to expand into his part of the country, we should let him know and he’ll tell all the village leaders. Jesse and I were almost in tears while hearing him speak. This is why we came.
There are so many other stories about our time in the last week or so, but to try to prevent this blog post from being too long, and so I can get back to work, I’ll stop here.
– Praise: We and all our luggage traveled safely to Uganda!
– Praise: Safe drive up to Gulu and back.
– Request: Safety and protection while learning to drive in Kampala (which is very different than in the US and can be dangerous)
– Praise: We really like Gulu (this week was our first time seeing Gulu), and are excited to be working regularly with the staff at the Lumi office there.
– Request: Patience and peace while still being unsettled (no place of our own), and that we find a suitable and affordable house in Gulu quickly.
– Request: For Lumi and for Lumi’s founder Thomas. Lumi is in a critical phase right now as the capital raise is starting. Thomas is with WorldVenture also and is in need of more financial supporters. Pray for wisdom for Lumi and for supporters for Thomas.
Thanks so much for following along with us on this journey.
Please let us know how we can be praying for you!
~Rachel (& Jesse)