Enjoy Today: Or At Least Try To
Everyone keeps asking us when we are going to get to come home with ZG. I told Carla that from now on I was going to start answering the question by saying, “Hopefully before the next Halley’s Comet!”
Here, some days you can’t help but think you’re trapped in a bad Lifetime movie. Specifically, the part of the movie where the main character has just lost her job, her baby was stolen, her face was ripped off, the railroad henchmen burned down the farm, and the evil ex-husband has come back to town to seek revenge.
All of that rolled up in the same movie.
Why couldn’t it have been like Win a Date with Tad Hamilton? Cheery and light; with traces of Josh Duemel’s bare chest.
Instead, it’s a double feature of heartache and misery. But wait. Don’t Lifetime movies, as cheesy as they are, always leave you wanting to watch another one because Crystal Bernard, Charisma Carpenter, Heather Locklear, or Katherine Heigl always win out in the end. They always get the guy or keep the farm.
I’m optimistic that the gloom and doom of this process is coming to an end, and we will be celebrating our homecoming soon. And if more adversity comes our way, lest we forget that all Lifetime movies are like 3 hours long. After the second hour, we just want to let the poor woman die! But then we wouldn’t experience the sweet bliss of that drawn out third hour of terrible acting and weak dialogue that makes us ready for another brain rotting production.
Time to Catch Everybody Up
On Tuesday we stayed at the B&B, or what Carla and I refer to as Uganda Federal Penitentiary. The days when we just stay at the B&B are long, so we have been trying to plan something to do at least every other day.
ZG has decided that she likes to whine when she wants something. It makes you feel important as a parent that you can satisfy your child’s needs when they whimper, but these little boogers are smart and quickly learn that they can whine for anything. ZG is so dramatic when she whines. Her mouth opens wide, the sound of crying comes out, she squints her perfectly dry eyes, and slings her arms around. Too bad it is all a great act! We are doing our best to stop it, but she is as committed to her art as Betty White!
That night our facilitator came by to check on us. Our facilitator is awesome and has really connected with us. A few weeks back I got into a scuffle with her about something, and started round two of our bout on Tuesday night. It brought Carla to tears that I was so mean with the way I talked to the facilitator, but I tried to explain to her that I am only looking out for our family and what is best for it at this moment.
I, I, I--- it was how I started every sentence that night justifying my actions. The world didn’t revolve around me that night, and certainly isn’t as I’m typing this. The rationale that I could fix something like this adoption process is dangerous; not to mention, disobedient. Pushing forward, as difficult as it is going to be, I have to let God determine the pace.
It may not be a good nighttime routine, but at least it’s a routine. We can bathe, feed, and put ZG to sleep in about an hour, so we start our routine at around 6:30pm or 7pm each night. She sleeps in a toddler bed that is at the foot of our bed in the already small room. She is such a restless sleeper and will cry out several times a night just to see if we are still here. One of us pushes back the mosquito net and gentles pats her back, and in less than one minute she is dreaming again. The story is different at about 4am. She is either wet or hungry, or both. This is the part of the routine that we will probably learn to regret, but we put her in our bed until she is ready to wake up at around 7am. ZG is getting ten hours of sleep at night and 2-one hour naps during the day. She is still a baby, so I am certain that this is completely normal. Parenting a baby is great. Being a procedural thinker, the problems that a baby has can all be linked to something small. They are sick, cold, hot, hungry, thirsty, dirty, or tired. Pretty simple. I bet it isn’t that easy when she turns sixteen! Logic and systems thinking will be replaced with do the opposite of what Daddy says! I wonder if my strategy of telling her to do what I really don’t want her to do when she is a teenager will work. I need you to smoke and drink this weekend, I want you to like that boy, I want grandkids now, I wish you would sneak out, Are you sure you want to study tonight, College is overrated, just quit school now!!! Yeah Right!
2nd Trip to the Embassy
One of the issues that I was at odds about with our facilitator was whether or not to start a file at the US Embassy before we received ZG’s passport. She finally conceded that it would be okay, so we planned to go there on Wednesday morning. I’m glad we did because we were missing several other documents as well. Our agency did the best they could at preparing us for what we might need, but the clerk at the Embassy is really good at her job and thoroughly examined our mountain of papers and forms, and found several mistakes and omissions. My stepmom had to email me my last three tax returns, the court ruling did not have the correct seal on it, ZG’s medical history was required, and the real killer, ZGs birth certificate didn’t match the guardianship papers! We knew about the date of birth being different because, since she was abandoned, the magistrate guessed at her date of birth. When the mother came back into the picture, she told the director of the orphanage the actual date. I assumed that the birth certificate that I took with me to the Embassy was the revised one. It had been almost three weeks since the director noticed the discrepancy on the paperwork for the consent forms. Biting my lip in anger I aggressively asked that someone working on this case fix this problem or I might have a Mack Fair come apart! Eleven days separate the issued DOB and the actual DOB. If the birth certificate is not corrected before the passport is issued, we are delayed again. If this happens, stay tuned for the next episode of LOCKED UP ABROAD: UGANDA: The story of a father who lost his mind and got hard time!
As of today, 10-19-2012, the birth certificate issue is still pending. Please pray that the right people take care of this and it is corrected on Monday. Please pray that our passports are ready on Monday as well. If we don’t get our passport on Monday, then our earliest return to the US will be November 5th. We know that God is in control of this process and our lives. We also know that this is a great time to bond and grow as a family. We have to be reminded of this so often. Not knowing anything and being helpless should be a lesson everyone learns! It sucks and is against our human nature to be trapped in that state of mind. That is why it is so important that we have some semblance of hope sprinkeled in everything we do here. Hope is often times very cliché and hollow when people are attempting to motivate with the promise of its power. Hope is not some magic potion of fairy dust. Hope is the driving force is in our lives that wakes us up each morning and confirms our faith every day. Hope isn’t something that you can want from someone when you are having a tough time; it is what is given to you by All Mighty God when you decide to acknowledge that you can’t do it alone. The power of Hope is useless as long as there is selfishness in your intentions. For the last week I have groveled and moaned that I needed Hope from my supporters. I missed the point again! Hope for me to feel better about myself will quickly breed misery. But if I can honor God, and be satisfied in the Hope and promise of his plan, I will be contented and delight in the ways of my God. Hope is from Heaven.
It has been almost one month since we left our home as a family of two, so to finish off the night, we decided that we had gone without Mexican Food for too long. While checking out during a quick stop at ShopRite earlier in the day, we asked a Mzungu that has lived in Uganda for the last thirteen years where to go for Mexican Food. She gave us directions to a small shop in the southern part of the city. The name of the place was the “Little Donkey”. We arrived too early and no food was ready to be served. Disappointed, we came back to the B&B and called to ask if our facilitator wanted to join us for some Mexican Food at the food court at the Metroplex. She dropped by at 5:30pm and we set out for our night on the town with only one stipulation; we would not talk about work at all! It was a good strategy and we had a great time and destroyed our tacos and burritos. There are not many restaurants with baby high chairs, so we stacked four chairs on top of each other and got ZG up to table height. She did so good and drank her milk and ate a few French Fries and some fruit. She loves to show off, so she showed the facilitator how she pops her lips and in a very refreshing way says “ahhhhh” after each sip of her cup. It is too cute and hilarious. What a great child Carla and I have been given.
We got back to the B&B around 8pm and put ZG right to bed. Carla and I both are edgy and are ready for some progress. We still hope we will find something out about the passport on Thursday.
Bored out of our minds and needing to get out of the B&B, we hired Twaha to take us out for a few hours. The plan was to go to a beauty shop that was recommended by the owner of the B&B for Carla to get a pedicure. Even after one month of living in Kampala, we still are clueless as to where anything is. We are unaware of street names, community names, or even the general direction of places because we never “move” by the same route each time. Street names are sparse and unlabeled. When a Ugandan gives directions they simply get you into the vicinity of where you are going. From then on, you have to ask locals for the detailed turn by turn directions to your desired destination. As we traveled in a direction that we have never been searching for the Salon, the streets got rougher, the tarmac gave way to mud, and the shops and rundown homes began to multiply. We were in a slum! Not to stereotype the B&B owner, but I would bet a silver nickel that she doesn’t come to this area to get her toenails painted! I quickly pulled the plug on this excursion and redirected our driver to a Mzungu friendly mall that had an American Steakhouse. We devoured a T-Bone steak with A-1 sauce and had a cheese platter. ZG learned that she loves to eat cheese and avocado. She is such a good eater; maybe too good of an eater. All of the Ugandans tell us she is fat. Carla said that the next person that called her fat was getting a black eye! Momma don’t play!
After ZG and I shared a large cup of chocolate ice cream, Carla called the B&B to get directions for the driver again. This time we had success. The building where ERA Salon was located shared the same name as the slum. We drove east down the road to Jinja for a few kilometers and made a sharp right down a familiar road. The salon was on the by-pass road that we take to miss the jam when going to Mukono from Kampala. When we got back that evening we were told that if you continue further down that road you reach one of Uganda’s real prisons! The salon was in a building that was filled with tenants and college girls living on the upper floors. What a great idea to put a beauty shop on the ground floor of a girls hostel. Tutwiler Hall---take note! Carla’s feet must have been jacked up after a month of abuse in Africa because the nail technician used every instrument in his case! Afterwards, Carla said that it was the most comprehensive pedicure that she had ever gotten. At times during the service, I could see Carla crawling the massage chair trying to escape the pain. The end result was a happy Mom with sore feet and nicely painted toenails. The salon also had a massage parlor. A one hour massage costs $12 dollars. Carla got the masseuse’s phone number and may schedule a session for next week. Before we left the salon we considered getting ZG’s ears pierced, but I decided that would be a nice thing to do in America!
Glad to be back at the B&B to rest, ZG took a late nap while Mommy and Daddy goofed off on the internet. It is so tiresome to take her out, even for 4 hours. I don’t know how people do it with multiple small children! The adoption agency called us late Thursday night to check on and encourage us. I was very honest about what I thought could be done to help our process and I believe it didn’t fall on deaf ears. The excuse of the process being the way it is because of Uganda is not valid anymore. I’ve seen Ugandans with energy and drive and willingness to help all over this country. I want somebody to find one that can help our case. There I go again with the “I statements”. I, I ,I can fix a lot of things, but I can’t fix this one. It’s not mine to fix; who ever said it was even broken.
Ever Been “Pimp Slapped” on a Friday?
The “programme” today includes making our third stop to the Embassy to drop off the remainder of our documents for ZG’s visa, with the exception of the passport and birth certificate. After that we plan to go to the Friday Market. Our final destination is the orphanage, where we have been invited to attend a party for the kids that the Dutch family is hosting. We have been reducing our visits to the home as the extended goodbye is emotionally taxing and the financial constraint of traveling so far is becoming an issue. It has been a hard thing to do because we know this is ZGs family and they want to see her and us. Lately, each time we go, we expect it to be our last. Each time we leave, the look on the workers faces is sad that we may not return and at the same time hopeful that we will. We try to be understanding but are so ready to be home as a family of three.
The quick stop at the Embassy was great. The worker in room #2, who I will keep nameless, is a breath of fresh air at this point in the process. She knows her job and understands how we feel at this stage of our journey. She received the additional documents and smiled politely as I exited the busy waiting room.
I skittishly walked down Gaba road with the traffic to my back. With the security levels at all US Embassies at an elevated level, there is no way that a motorcar is getting within 100 yards of the gate. There is no sidewalk on the east side of Gaba road. All there is to walk on is the rim of a concrete storm gutter that is about six inches wide. The penalty for a misstep could cost you a broken ankle as you tumbled three feet below the street level to the bottom of the stone trough.
Patrick, still full from breakfast at the B&B, assisted me into the van and back to the center of town we went towards the market. Just as we entered the heart of town, a motorcycle with an officer in all white signaled to Patrick to pull over. The traffic police had gotten us again. So far in our four plus weeks here in the middle of Africa, we have been pulled over at least once with every driver that we have ridden with. I don’t know if they pull us over because we are Mzungus, or if our chauffeurs just can’t drive! The exchange between the two men went on for five minutes before I saw the officer pull out his “receipt” book. If you get a receipt by the traffic police in Uganda, you lose your permit to drive. If you make your living driving, this can’t happen. Immediately I saw our driver shake the hand of the officer and off we went with a driver that had a little less wealth. Maybe he was still fluttered from the traffic policeman, but Patrick didn’t have a clue where the market was, and after pulling up to three of four vendors and saying, “we are here”, we finally told him to call our facilitator and get the directions to the market that we wished to visit. It turns out that the market was less than one mile away from the Embassy. So, off we went, fighting the jam, and thirty minutes later we made it to the market. Pissed off is not harsh of a term for the state of mind that Carla and I are both in right now. To properly describe our psyche you would have to use the words, angered to violence! Thank God we have a perfect child, who never gave us a single problem all morning. Otherwise we might have blown a gasket. Everybody, please don’t think that we have changed and have transformed into these two crummy old souls with a precious daughter that they aren’t thankful for. We are still the light-hearted couple that left Alabama a month ago for our daughter, but we are beginning to lose our ability to be understanding!
Did I mention that it is hot as HELL-O! The last few days have been miserable. Without any afternoon showers or evening thunderstorms to cool things off, it has been a consistent 90-95 degrees all day every day. Mix that in with no air conditioning, brick oven buildings, and two hour van rides, and you instantly smell like a wet shoe all day long and act like you smell like a wet shoe. I told Carla that I’m not sure if I even stink anymore, and that I couldn’t smell body odor on anybody else either. My olfactory system has surrendered. Good thing Carla’s is still working, so she could confirm for me that I did indeed stink and it was bad, like old cheese that got left in that wet shoe bad!
We blew forty bucks on souvenirs at the market and had fun walking around with ZG from tent to tent. The shop keepers hocking their merchandise are incredible salesmen. As soon as you approach their tent, they all say in perfect English, “Hello, Yes Please, Thank You, You’re Welcome”. The combination of phrases doesn’t make any more sense now than it did at market, but I am a southern gentleman, so I proudly respond, “Well Hey and Thank You too”!
The orphanage will be moving locations soon to make way for the boarding school that is scheduled to begin in February for first term. There is full scale construction going on for the school house and dining hall. The progress is coming along nicely. The front of the administration building has been painted with the school’s name and the painters are almost finished with the brightly colored murals painted on the outside of the actual school building. As we walked around to the back, where the home is located, the men were mixing concrete to begin laying the foundations for the dining hall. Digging the foundations by hand had taken the young laborers about one week to complete. They were, as always, working hard under the hot Ugandan sun shoveling rock and pouring water into the concrete mixer. There are no concrete trucks, just an old wheel barrow with a brawny Ugandan on the work end. The school is really needed in the Namataba community. The goal is to have a mix of full fare paying students and subsidized students. Eventually the school will serve as a pipeline for the orphanage. The founder’s vision, as you will find out, for the six hilly acres overlooking the lush green valley is not limited to just the school.
Elise, her sister Selene, and mom, Ana made up the team from Rotterdam that I mentioned in an earlier post. Their primary mission in Namataba was to love on the children in the home and help in the community. The day we first met the malnourished baby Elise was there and made sure that the baby would survive. Through providing food and funds to Hijet for the first week and eventually playing an instrumental role in a temporary custody agreement being reached with the child’s family and the orphanage, by the grace of God the baby, who was slowly dying, is now well and has doubled his weight in the last three weeks. The baby looks great! He is wide eyed and responsive. He even squeezes your finger and laughs. The concern and compassion of the Dutch family has been life-changing for that baby boy. Unfortunately, the mother refused to be transported for treatment at the leprosy hospital and told the orphanage director that she wanted to die. Please pray that this mother will change her mind about living and that the baby continues his rehabilitation and development. Pray for the Dutch family to feel God’s presence in their good deeds and to seek a relationship with Him.
All of the kids at the home were dressed in their nicest clothes and were on their best behavior when we arrived in advance of the party.
The oldest boy, who is going to be huge when he is older, is tall and smart. He was rescued by the orphanage director when she found out about him from a community volunteer. He was sent away by his mother at four years old to live with his step mom. His father’s wife beat him and fed him only enough to keep him alive. By the time the director was given custody, he had developed serious behavioral problems and his physical condition was dire. The photo that we saw of him on the day he was moved to the home showed him with deep wounds on his head and one of his eyes was swollen shut. After two weeks in the malnourishment ward of the hospital he made his way to the home and began his rehabilitation with his new brothers and sisters. Today he is doing great and starts school in February.
The youngest boy is just over one year old. He loves his nanny and cries when he loses sight of her. Since we have been in country he has learned to walk. A boda boda driver was instructed by his mother to take him to the JAJA on the corner. The mother told the driver of the boda boda that his JAJA would take care of him. The driver took the fare, no questions asked, and dropped the six month old baby boy off with the unsuspecting JAJA. Too bad the JAJA had no clue who the little boy was or belonged to. He was abandoned at six months old and the JAJA cared for him throughout the next few days as the director of the home was in the process of receiving custody. The real hero in this baby’s story is the JAJA who cared for a baby that she had never met and had no intentions of ever knowing.
Reeling from a lifetime of abuse and malnourishment, the oldest girl looks like she is the youngest. Weighing just a few ounces more than ZG, she is still a force to be reckoned within the home. Badly beaten by a relative, the police intervened and gave custody to the director for this precious girl. Besides a few behavior issues and developmental issue, this little girl is the gem of the home and provides all the entertainment that one would need!
In an earlier post I mentioned the youngest girl, now that ZG is gone. Her mom is HIV+ and her sister has cerebral malaria. She is so smart and tender. The most disciplined of all the children, she baths herself, feeds herself, washes her own cup, and puts herself to bed. Did I mention that she is three years old! Such a beautiful baby girl.
Pray for these darling kids. Pray for their nannies who rarely get a minutes rest. Pray that they learn and grow and have the opportunities that all children deserve. Pray for the adults that violated them and abandoned them. Pray that they learn to know the Lord and his redeeming love.
Before the party we were served my favorite Ugandan dish, Matoka and Cheese. I scarfed it down almost as fast a Patrick finished his! All of the nannies helped to serve the children including ZG, who has completely forgotten everything about being independent. To the chagrin of the orphanage director, Carla had to feed ZG because she didn’t remember how to eat from a bowl by herself! She is such a little priss pot!
Nobody wanted to let their food digest because the promise of the party had been the carrot for good behavior all day long. What kind of Dutch party would be complete without music, chocolate, and beer; even if it is a party for children. The kids danced the afternoon away, washing the sweets down with soda and playing with balloons in the small activity room at the home. I attempted to choke down a hot Ugandan beer but instead opted to sit in on the window sill and act like it wasn’t mine. It was awful!
Watching the clock to make sure we didn’t get caught in the jam, Carla and I both rolled our eyes when the founder asked us to come outside along with the entire room of children and Dutch visitors. He said that he had a surprise for everyone.
I thought he got the kids a dog or something.
This better not take long, I thought to myself.
We made our way to the back northeast corner of the property and gathered around a short ceramic tile pillar. The founder proceeded to give a heartfelt thanks to the Dutch for their service to his community and awarded them all a very nice certificate of appreciation. He followed that up with certificates for Carla and I. At this time we are feeling like crap for wanting to be on the road heading back the B&B. That was the forehand pimp slap that God had for us. But it was the strong back hand pimp slap that left us broken and humble. After explaining to us his vision to construct a hostel for mission workers that will be built on the very ground that we were standing on, he dedicated that short ceramic tile pillar to Carla and I in recognition of the contributions that we had made to his community in the way of adopting ZG. Carla burst into tears, ashamed of how unconcerned we had been with the trip to Namataba that day, while I stood speechless, wondering how I was going to tell this man that I barely knew that this was the most meaningful thing that anyone had ever done for my family. With cameras there to document this small piece of history for the home and school, they clicked away and we held our smiles as best we could, unable to shake the guilt of our selfishness. The people that raised ZG over the last year are good to the core and want to do great things for their community. Earlier in the day I asked the founder of the home and school why he was motivated to do the things he did when he could live high on the hog in Kampala and drink fancy wine every night. He told me a simple story about planting trees in college that would be harvested by the villagers in ten years and the revenue would be reserved for school fees for the children. As he passed by one the villages where he planted those seedlings a decade ago, he saw a tract of trees being harvested. He immediately realized what a huge impact that a seemingly small and insignificant act ten years ago was now going to have on the future of the community through the education of its children. A wise thought and one that motivated him to make a commitment to changing lives, no matter how small and insignificant that they seem.
After the small ceremony we really did have to go to make it back to Kampala in time to get ZG to bed by 7:30pm. The jam was terrible, and I made the decision to go by for pizza at an out of the way mall.
Pizza in Uganda pretty much blows. I have had it twice already and it disappointed both times in a big way. So, my goal is to find good Ugandan Pizza! The Oasis Mall beside Garden City Mall has a place called Pizza Connection that I am confident will not taste like boot leather and cheese. I ordered two pies to go and ate my portion while Carla and ZG skyped with family. Let’s just say the pizza was better than Totino’s Frozen Pizza and worse than Hungry Howie’s. Luckily, I bought a Mt. Dew at the mall that was bottled outside of Africa and tasted almost like the stuff back home.
ZG’s restlessness at night, specifically during the first part of the night, has become a small bit of concern for us. We have looked around on the web and the common causes for kids her age to experience restless nights are growing, teething, and other emotional detachment factors. The potential of those factors are definitely present. According to the web, the restlessness will go away. Carla is such a good Mom. She has that primal instinct to be caring and concerned. Dads suck at this part. I would just blame the tossing and turning on a lumpy matress!
Last Saturday night I was planning on staying up late and streaming the Bama game on the IPad. I went to sleep instead. Kickoff for tonight’s game will be at 2am in Uganda. I’m guessing that I’ll read the news in the morning to get the score. I miss American football. I would even watch the NFL at this point.
The day passed by quickly and at around 2pm we got a text from our facilitator on our Uganda phone inviting us to church. This brand of church that I have mentioned before is named Watoto. Over the last several years, there have been five church plants, and they are planting the sixth in a rural area right now. The pastor is a white Canadian who has been in Uganda for thirty years. The services at the main branch of the church, Watoto Central, have become so large that they have a service eon Saturday nights to relieve the pressure on the pews on Sunday morning. The place was packed. It reminded me of one of the huge churches in Birmingham. A worship team lined the front of the stage with a full band ensemble and fifty person choir. The service is purposely spoken in English to break down the walls of tribalism and promote unity among the participants who come from all areas of the country. After a vibrant light show and concert like sing along to some well-known songs, the pastor turned over the pulpit to one of his associate pastors who preached on Changing the Culture of Uganda to reflect a more Christ Centered country. His key points were breaking down corruption, disrespect of authority, laziness, and most importantly beating the AIDS epidemic. The most powerful illustration about AIDS that I have ever heard was given by the young pastor. He started off giving a history of Pearl Harbor and the USA’s retaliation on Japan with the atomic bomb. He laughed and said, “America thought they had a bomb”! He explained that in five years the infection rate of HIV would be 780,000 Ugandans per year! The disease will wipe the country off the map if sex education and biblical relationships are not practiced. I really like this church because of the energy and biblical teaching that accompanies each sermon. They also pray for each service as a congregation, and have a time in the service to pray with your neighbor. I sat by a gentleman named Patrick who prayed a very powerful and heartfelt prayer for our passport and birth certificate to be resolved on Monday. In return, he asked me to pray for him to find a suitable partner for a wife. He told me he was ready to give up and be a single man if he didn’t find a wife soon. Please pray for Patrick to find a suitable help mate that would be pleasing to the Lord.
Church ended and we ate at a coffee shop that was set up like Panera Bread Co.. We all had a very heavy meal while ZG sat in her high chair, acting like a perfect angel, demanding attention of everyone in the place for a smile. ZG had a good bit of African Tea and mashed potatoes. When she came down off of her starch and caffeine high she told us it was time to go by screaming like a crazy person; Check Please!
She is out like a light right now, sleeping peacefully for the moment. Please pray that ZG rests all night without tossing and turning. Good sleep is our prayer for ZG today.
It’s Been a Blessed Few Days,
Two Humbled Parents