I have been given a new name.
We start the day early, heading out of Kampala towards the east of the country. We pass by the town of Jinja, where the Nile starts. We drive through gorgeous views, boasting 100 colors of green. Plantain trees, tea farms, corn fields, newly planted potato plants, cassava, rice paddies, and all sorts of vegetation fly by as we make good time towards a hospital called Holy Innocents. When we think we are close, we find out we are not. We turn off the main road onto a road made of red. Red dirt is everywhere, breaking up the green and I enter into that feeling of nodding off but not being asleep, feeling the breeze coming through the open window.
We bounce along for a long time and don’t know which fork on the road to take. Both seem to be the one less traveled by, to be fair, so our decision isn’t easy. A motorcycle appears on the side of the van and points the way, without asking who we are or where we are going. We follow for a long time and the green breaks up again to show us the hospital. Partly built, it is on a gorgeous piece of land surrounded by all sorts of fruit and vegetables.
Moses meets us here and gives us a tour, proudly pointing out each piece of equipment AFCA sent them. Looking sheepish, he asks if I know where the keys to the file cabinets are and it is my turn to be embarrassed. It seems we didn’t include keys and apologizing, I tell him it is ok to break the lock. He says he wanted to do that, but wanted permission first. Permission granted, we move on and learn that this man is a visionary – he has dreams of a hospital that provides nutrition training, skills trainings (carpentry, sewing, hair dressing, brick making), and training in sustainable living (tilapia and livestock raising, as well as gardening). He is inspiring and I am proud of being attached to this project.
We sit down to a lunch they’ve prepared for us, but really, it is a feast, complete with a turkey. We are celebrating Thanksgiving in Uganda – thanksgiving for the container of medical supplies and equipment they now have, thanksgiving for new friendships, thanksgiving for what the future holds, and thanksgiving to God for His provisions.
From here, we head out on the red road, bouncing around like ping-pong balls. We arrive at the Chief Health Officer’s office for a quick official greeting. I don’t like these formalities, but I have no choice. As we enter, I hear, “Tanya! You’re back!” and there stands John Opolot, someone I met two years ago. We exchange greetings and recollections, falling into an easy conversation that is welcome. He wonders what my Ugandan name is and when I confess I don’t have one, he is horrified and decides he will remedy the situation immediately. I am to be called Acam (the c is pronounced like ch) and for the rest of the day, I am asked to sign my new name in each registry.