As I mentioned in the first post prior to signing off, travel day was already underway. We arrived in Atlanta and our 58 minute layover disappeared into the loading process of boarding an International Flight. We went straight from one plane and walked two gates down, scanned our tickets, and sat right back down for an 8 hour flight to Amsterdam. We lost Thursday night because when we arrived in Amsterdam, after the softest landing ever might I add, it was 9am local time. Carla was hungry, so I made a McDonalds run. We scarfed it down and got in line one hour prior to take off to go through security again. Coincidentally, we were in line with two guys from Alabama who were going to Uganda on a mission trip. Alabama is representing in East Africa right now! We really do live in a small world.
The flight from Amsterdam to Entebbe was interesting because Carla was approached by a nice lady who overheard us talking to our fellow Alabamians. She specifically heard the part about our adoption and gave Carla her business card and phone number and told us to call her if we needed anything. She continued to tell us that she was from Uganda but worked in the USA and had adopted two boys about ten years ago from Uganda. What a blessing to know that we could call her if we needed to and she would understand what we were experiencing.
I met a soft spoken man named John who was seated next to me in Seat 41C. He had been in London and was headed back to his Ugandan Army Base. John explained to me the importance of a strong army and smiled when he spoke about the times he trained with US and NATO forces. He told me to be proud of my country and stand up for what is right. You see, he was forced to be a child soldier at age 14 before he escaped and joined the fight against the rebels. It was humbling to experience meeting someone who lives out the hell that we read and watch about. God Bless you John 41C.
On a technicality Carla and I are adding two countries that we have been to; The Netherlands, where we connected our flight to Entebbe and Rwanda, where we landed for 20 minutes to pick up and drop off passengers in the town of Kigali.
It seemed like it would never happen, but we arrived in Entebbe, Uganda almost 2 calendar days after we left our house as lost parents. Getting through customs and getting our 90 day visas was a breeze and took less than ten minutes. Outside the airport, through the darkness of the midnight sky we saw the placard carrying man with the name of the hotel we had made reservations with and were expecting shuttle service from. The name of reservation on the placard was Hieler, so I made the executive decision as the husband that the name was similar enough to Hamner and approached the man and said, “ Yep that’s me”. But nobody’s gonna kidnap and ransom the Hielers or Hamners tonight! I’ve seen enough spy movies to know that you can ask a small very informal question and get some big answers.
So, I asked how Grahm was.
Grahm is whom I communicated with through email and made our reservation. Before the placard carrying man could even answer a skinny hand shot through the darkness and said, “I am Grahm, it is a pleasure to meet you”.
What the heck, I’m game. Let’s go! Carla was hesitant but trusted me and we made it to a hotel shortly after midnight. The problem was it wasn’t the Airport View Hotel. I asked Grahm what was up with the switcheroo. He confidently assured me that it was ok to stay there because he had over booked his hotel and that I wouldn’t give out one shilling if I wasn’t satisfied. What a salesman! Carla and I went straight to bed with an old Clint Eastwood movie on and woke up to another Clint Eastwood on. East Africa must love Clint Eastwood. Solid choice considering David Hasslehoff was already taken by the Germans!
We slept great, and as I pulled back the curtains to get my first glimpse of Uganda in the daylight my sight was obstructed by the cemetery that made up the back yard of the hotel.
Grahm made good on all of his deals and was at the hotel to pick us up at 9:30am and take us to the Airport View Hotel where our in country facilitator was scheduled to pick us up. The traffic was very heavy and caused our facilitator to be late. Luckily we got to experience the congestion of the busy city of Kampala in full swing as we commuted to Mukono where ZG lives. On the way to Mukono, we stopped and I used an ATM and Carla got us some water and snacks. Finally, after 30 more minutes of fighting traffic we arrived at the hotel that will be our home for the next 28 days. Our facilitator gave us a look of, “you Americans can’t survive here”. Assuredly we were told that the place was safe by a front desk worker. Sure, I’ll pretty much believe anyone I guess. If the next post never comes you’ll know they were a liar! Our room is nice. We have a full sized bed and a bathroom. The bathroom is extremely efficient. They didn’t waste time or money on a shower they just installed a shower head right on the wall- IKEA style!
All the traveling and hotel drama of the last 2 days was but a blip on our radar compared to what would happen next. In 20 minutes we would meet our daughter. The uniting played out in the most perfect way that anyone could have imagined even if they had a thousand years to ponder. We walked into the orphanage and saw 4 naked butts running across the courtyard. The children ranged in age from 1-4. They were happy and clean. One little girl ran and jumped in my arms as another one of ZG’s sisters ran to Carla. We were then very warmly greeted by the director of the home and asked to go inside where the children were. As we played for several more minutes, so grateful for the home that ZG is being cared for in, the room changed. It became brighter. ZG was here in the room with us. United at last, the nanny handed her to Carla and tears of joy filled her eyes like any mother after meeting their child for the first time. I stood to the side, the proudest man in Uganda, and leaned over and kissed my daughter for the first time. Carla squeezed her, kissed her, and held her close for several minutes. ZG loves her mommy. The prayers for immediate bonding were confirmed today as the foundation of our relationship with ZG was planted solidly today. The next hour was incredible! Our baby girl played with us and stared at us and laughed at us. Insurmountable happiness was flowing through us.
We did have to leave her at around 4pm, but it wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be because of how much love is in the home. At one point the nanny had to leave because the reality of ZG leaving was sinking in with our presence. The director even got emotional when the facilitator asked her a question about ZG leaving. She is loved. She is loved BIG.
We worked out some details about transportation and came back to the hotel where we rested before dinner. Fried chicken was on the menu at the hotel restaurant with a side of slaw and French fries. The slaw looked a little dicey but I said what the heck and ate it anyway! On a side note, there is apparently a dance club inside the hotel complex because the windows are rattling to Ricky Martin right now. Maybe they will get tired of ‘Livin La Vida Loca’ and go to bed.
Two Less Lost Parents