Today was the perfect way to distract ourselves from the frustration of dealing with the judge and adoption stuff. Normally you have to give Compassion International 8 weeks notice if you want to meet the child you sponsor but we didn't have enough time (remember I got the call to be in Uganda in less than 2 weeks!?) So even though we weren't able to give them the right amount of notice, they made it happen and today we went. All we knew was that we would be driving for 4 hours to her Compassion Project site and that our ride would be picking us up at 6am. I wanted to assume that mean't Ugandan time (7:30am) but we set our alarm for 5:30am anyway. We packed snacks, all the gifts and clothes we brought her, some groceries for her parents and some toys for her siblings too. We kept looking out the window but no one had pulled into the parking lot. So Nathan and I just laid back down and waited. We were smart enough not to wake up Jaydn until our ride actually got here to give maximum sleep to her. I looked at the clock and it was 7am. I called the number I was given for the Compassion Uganda offices and a man named Chris answered so I asked him where our driver was. He said he was at our apartment and I promised him he was not and that we had been awake and waiting for over an hour. Chris decided to give me the number for our driver and when I called him we figured out that he was waiting but at the wrong place. So about 7:30am we actually got underway to the project. Jaydn is an amazing traveler. If she wasn't sleeping she was just looking out the window or playing with her books, snacking and singing. Nathan and I are so grateful that our longest trip with her (our plane rides home) will be before Jaxon and Jovie have a chance to teach her how to complain or require more entertainment. Some of the roads we were taking were CRAZY! They were not made for cars and had HUGE rocks and pits in them. So for about 30-45 minutes of the trip, we were being slammed into the windows, catching air between our bums and the seat, and jamming our head into the roof over and over again. It was great! When we pulled up to the project the children began cheering and running toward our car. They had our sponsor child, Esther in hand and she was the first to greet us. It is custom here for females to bend their knee when they greet a man or a guest so she did that as she shook our hands. The smile on her face was precious. Nathan and I were in awe of how much more beautiful she is in person than the picture we've had on our fridge for so long. About 30 children just stared at us as we made our way into the project office. We were sat in a room with two desks and a computer playing Christian music and they introduced us to the staff and Esther's father Fred. James, the project head, led us all in prayer and we felt like such honored guests. James said we needed to have breakfast first and then he would show us around. By this time it was 12pm but we didn't argue. There were only a few choices, bananas, bread and butter, boiled eggs and chapati. To drink we had black tea or milk. I have come to learn that I LOVE chapati! Jaydn scarfed down some bread and an egg while I enjoyed a banana, chapati and tea. Then James took us around the project grounds and explained that the church on site was named after the first missionary to bring the Gospel to Uganda- Bishop Hanington. He showed us the memorial tree in his honor, the school rooms, the play area etc and we met the head master of the school there as well. Where we were was right on the border of Uganda and Kenya and the view was magnificent! Then we had the privilege of walking up on a choir rehearsal under a nearby tree and I asked if they would sing for us and they did- it was so great! My eyes started tearing as they sang "welcome visitors" to us many times accompanied by some more words I could not understand. We got a video of it though so I can always remember it. Then it was time to meet Esther's family and see her home. They drove us down the road a little bit with Esther and two of her closest friends sitting as close as they possibly could to me. Nathan and I noticed Jaydn was getting a bit jealous and would do what she had to and inch her way in somehow. It was a good sign of progressing attachment (I think). As we were driving up I looked ahead and there was a crowd of 20 people, all different ages, singing and clapping for us as we arrived. It was amazing! As we got out of the car they kept singing and inserted my name into the song. It was so cool. As the people sang, Esther handed us wild flowers in sprite bottles as a gift. It was the most honoring thing I have ever experienced. Its important to know that Esther is one of 8 children. She falls in the middle and has 3 other sisters and 4 brothers. She also has some step family from a former wife Fred had- you can imagine how I felt about that one :) They led us into their home, literally a mud hut that people imagine everyone lives in in Africa. There was not enough space for all the people that were there so they just introduced the family one by one then sent a group out and brought another in. We met all the kids, the step kids, the parents, the grandmother, the aunt and her kids, the neighbors....it was incredible. Then they brought out the letters we had written to Esther. It was so cool to see that they had really made it to them and they had every picture we sent of our family and each drawing from the kids that we had sent too. It was a major confirmation that these letters really did matter to these people across the world. I know we cherish ours from Esther and look forward to each and every one! Then everyone cleared out and James offered us some fruit (papaya, mango, bananas and avocado) sitting on the table in honor of our visit. We had learned a long time ago that it is offensive to not accept a gift from a person of another culture so we always plan to say yes to remain respectful. Something you should know about us though is that neither of us like avocado-its gross. We want to like it, b/c its a good fat for your body but we have only liked guacamole on 2 occasions and that is as close as we have ever been to liking an avocado. But I decided to be nice and eat the smallest sliver on the platter. They recommended I sprinkle some salt on it so I did and then took a bite. I looked up at Nathan and said, "This is really good." So he decided to try some (kind of like Eve eating the apple first) and LOVED it. He ate about 4 more slices right after that. Jaydn loved the avocado as well while I munched away on the mangoes. The papaya wasn't quite ripe yet so it was just ok. Then we were surprised to learn next up was lunch. We had eaten "breakfast" 30 minutes ago at the office remember? James explained that was just a snack after our long travel, now we were going to eat. All the women of the family carried in platter after platter of a variety of food. They had chicken, greens, cabbage, some bread type thing called casava, white rice, more boiled eggs and water from the nearby well. It was quite a spread. James remembered from my letters that I was a vegetarian so he informed me it was ok if I didn't eat the chicken. I was so glad to hear that! Everyone chowed down expect Nathan and I, we took it easy since we had just eaten two meals just minutes before. Plus it did not taste good at all. Jaydn loved the greens though while I enjoyed the cabbage the most. Finally we finished eating and went outside to give Esther the gifts we had brought her and her family. We explained each toy and food and showed them some dresses we brought and the whole crowd was hanging on our every word. The girls lit up when they saw the bracelets and hair clips. The boys enjoyed the balloons. We threw the frisbee around with the kids for awhile and then James told us the family wanted to give us something too. They made Esther give it to us and I was so surprised and joyful to see it. It was an adorable all black goat! I asked James if they were serious and he assured me they were. I explained that I loved it very much ( I did, I had been petting him and fixed the rope when he got it caught on his foot) but that I could not take it b/c they would never allow him on the airplane with me. James passed the info along to Esther and the family and they understood so instead they brought us some fruits from their farm. They wouldn't let us leave without naming the goat so Nathan suggested we name it BaileyBoo after our dog. I asked Esther to take care of BaileyBoo and keep me posted on how he is doing in our letters. She smiled and said she would. Then we took a few pictures and I called for a group hug. I have never experienced such a touching reception and gathering of people in our honor. They gave speeches explaining their gratitude, served us in their home, and gave me a goat for crying out loud! We were so humbled. I wanted to stay and spend more time there but we had another long drive back to Kampala so we needed to head out. We shook hands, hugged necks, and kissed foreheads until they dragged us away. The ride back was made even longer b/c of traffic but still Jaydn was a stud and didn't mind a bit. I am still glowing from our time in the village/project today. It has radically transformed the way I look at our letter exchanges and relationship to this African family. I look forward to checking up on BaileyBoo the goat and her siblings/mom/dad/grandma/aunt/cousins/friends/neighbors etc. It was a special time and I thank God it worked out for us to be able to go. I will never be the same.
As we arrived back in Kampala, we received news that we got 1/2 of what we need from the judge and Dorah was able to get Jaydn's passport- YAY! We are still waiting for the error the judge found the other day, to be fixed and the full ruling to be retyped accordingly so we can apply for a Visa appointment. We are hopeful that even with the backlog of the Embassy not holding any appointments this week, that we will be able to get one either Monday or Wednesday so we can head home by the end of next week. We are grateful to see that progress is indeed taking place finally so we can only wait and see how long now until we get to schedule our flights home!
Gotta go to bed now, my head is throbbing from being slammed into the car roof during our 4 wheeling adventure today. I sure wish I could have brought my goat home though-he was so cute!
*for more pictures and status updates, please follow our journey on Facebook too. Nathan's and Bethany's*