Monday, November 21, 2005

How giving a lift saved my life... Part 3

Later that day, back in Arua, a shot up vehicle was brought into town. It belonged to another relief organization. The driver was wounded and in the hospital. Some of our friends knew I had been headed to Kampala that morning and want to be sure I was ok. So they came into the compound in a rush asking my wife about me and if she had heard about the shot up truck.

The thing was, no one knew what had happened to me. My wife was suddenly very scared. In those days, there was no cell service until just north of Kampala.

Our driver/mechanic Abas saw how worried everyone was and decided to find out on his own what had happened. He knew that everyday buses would travel north from Kampala to Arua and would have to pass me along the way.

Abas went to the bus station and talked with all of the drivers until he found one that remembered seeing my blue truck. Rushing home he told my wife that I was safe.

I didn't find out until that night how close I had been. I was the last vehicle to get through. The two vehicles behind me were attacked. My guess is that the rebels knew what time the gates opened and timed their ambush to hit the first vehicles through. I had given the lift to the park ranger... and that had bought me the extra ten minutes.

How giving a lift saved my life... Part 2

So, with the park ranger in the cab with me we drove off to the park. Pakwatch is an interesting place. It is a major crossroads for both vehicle traffic and river traffic. I wish I had seen it when it was in full swing. The Nile river, the old Uganda Railroad and several major roads all intersect at Pacwatch. Today there is very little river traffic, and the railroad does not operate.

You can still see the remains of the railroad depot and the docks on the river as you head south from town. Crossing the Albert Nile river over the railroad bridge and past several more army check points, you make a right turn off the main road to Kampala and drive into the park.

The park roads are much nicer than the main road, and is usually much safer. This morning didn't seem any different to me. I paid the park fees at the gate and let off my friend the park ranger. Off I went, in my blue land cruise pickup.

The first sign of anything odd was after I crossed the Nile (the Victoria Nile this time). I stopped at a friend's place (he owned a lodge on the south side of the river). I usually stopped there, because his place was the last place to use a real toilet and get a bottle of cold soda. This time he came out to greet me before I even got out of the truck.

I remember he looked puzzled, but I couldn't quite figure what was up. As I was getting ready to leave he asked me if everything was ok... I thought it was, but asked him if he had heard anything. "No, he said, he thought there might have been some trouble up north, but since I had made it, he thought it might have been just a rumor.

Friday, November 11, 2005

How giving a lift saved my life... Part 1

The LRA are active again. Not only taking inocent life but also detroying hope of rebuilding Northern Uganda. The LRA are cowards, I'm not sure that there is anyone who would argue that point. Lets face it, any "army" who can only manage to attach grade schools, and unarmed aid workers, can't be that couragous.

It turns out that I was once a few minutes from death at their hands. It was only that I gave a lift to a man at just the right time.

I was driving down to Kampala from Arua. I had left very early in the morning so that I could get to Kampala before dark. I made great time and actually arrived at Pakwatch before the army opened the gates. There are two ways to get south from Pakwatch. One, you can try and keep up with the military convoys using the main road. Two, you can travel through the Murchison Falls game park.

The game park was not only safer, but also a nicer drive. Best of all I could stop for a rest at the Paraa Lodge.

So anyway, at the gate I am first in line and no one will let me through until the offical 9:00am start. That is except for a single park ranger. He saw me waiting and he needed a ride, so we made a quick deal. I would drive him to his post and he would get me through the gate.

By that time, it was 10 minutes till 9:00am and I wasn't saving a whole lot of time, but it was the thought that counted. Off we went to the park.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Street Children, everyday...

Another first for me was the street children. Being raised in a pretty protected environment of the Pacific Northwest, I had never seen children living in the streets and begging.

It was in Lodwar, Kenya that I first had a mob of children begging me for money. At the time it seemed novel, and since I was with several Kenyans they quickly shooed them away.

The more we encountered them, the more we began to resent them. I'm not sure if it was constantly being faced by a problem that we could do little about, or that culture shock was just too much for us.

Not until we had been in Africa for 6 months or more, did we start relearning the compassion. We were not simply overwhelmed anymore, but started to see each child as an individual. Driving through Kampala, Uganda one morning, we saw a small girl, not much older than our daughter. She had a baby strapped to her back and she was fighting off several boys. The boys were trying to take the food she had found in the garbage heap.

For just a moment, both Nicole and I let our guard down, and started to cry. This memory still make me ill to think about. Too often Americans do this with the rest of the world. We all put up "protective" walls to keep from caring too deeply about the needs of the world. Every so often, the media captures just the right image and we all care for a minute or two.

I am convinced that if each of us just took the time to seen the needs of the world for they are... individual people, each with a story to tell... we would help a lot more.