Wednesday, May 23, 2007

One Tree Hill

I think that it’s important that when a group does a mission trip that they also include some sightseeing. As a veteran of a few short term trips, I always look forward to getting out and seeing some other sights and buying some trinkets for the fam. On one of the last days they were to spend in Uganda, I took the Purdue gang to Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). There are 2 ways to get to QENP from my site. One route takes you backwards an hour to Mbabara and then another 2 hours to the park. Another way looks shorter and goes straight north and meets up with the other route but goes through the bush and is entirely dirt roads. We took the dirt roads. The roads where white folk rarely travel. Aside from a bumpy ride and having to stop along the way for some cows to move out of our path, it was quite beautiful, but because of the reduced speed of maneuvering around potholes and giant ruts carved into the road by rainwater it actually took us about the same amount of time than it would have to take the other route.

We eventually made it to QENP. Upon entering the park we immediately saw a family of baboons just along the road. Of course we stopped to take pictures and proceeded to throw any food we had in the van out at them. As we ventured deeper into the park we saw cape buffalo, bushbuck (large, deer-like animals), elephants and a sleepy male lion. We hired a guide and proceeded to take the scenic route around the park for sightseeing. This time we encountered some warthogs and hippos. At some point in time the group veered toward being giddy and Junior High (wait, maybe that was me) and started asking, over and over, “Do those ones eat meat?” The highlight of the trip was just as dusk was setting in, a large family of elephants was scattered all around us. We stopped and watched as they crossed the road in front of us and behind. Mother elephants with their babies. Large males. They were so majestic and fascinating. It was too dark to take pictures, which in some way was good because it meant putting the cameras down and just soaking in the moment. It was pretty powerful to just be with these huge creatures in their natural environment. The guide kept saying, can we go, but the group just wanted to stay and observe.

After spending the night in our hostel on the Mweya Peninsula, we bought tickets for a boat ride on the lake. Upon making the decent down to the pier we encountered a large group of mongooses (yes, that’s the proper plural form of mongoose – it’s not mongi). Mongooses are groundhog/squirrel like animals. Their nearest relative is the hyena. We were literally right on top of them. They were running all around us. Some even aloud themselves to be petted. The boat trip was another highlight. We got up close and personal with some crocodiles that were sunning on the shore with their mouths wide open. We also encountered several hundred hippos (which I hear kill more people annually than lions). QENP has around 5,000 hippos and they’re hard to miss.

Upon returning to our village Ken and Brad wanted to take the group up to One Tree Hill, a small hill about a mile behind my house with one tree on the top of it, hence the name, and with a nice overview of my village. I go up there frequently myself to pray, think, feel and cry. They wanted to go and do the same while reflecting on these past 2 weeks. We all stayed up there for a couple of hours. Reflection time. In the end we circled up and talked about what was the most significant moment for each of us. It was something different for everyone. One said that visiting the first family who had 11 living is a home “smaller than my bedroom” and being able to give them a few necessities. Another said that sharing time with the Compassion kids and seeing them smiling and happy was the highlight. The last girl to go had a hard time fighting back the tears. She talked about going to her host family that first night. The host family’s house is in the middle of a boarding school where 200 girls were staying. She said that they were all just looking at her at first, unsure of how to approach. Then one girl stepped forward and kneeled and shook her hand, followed by another and then another and before she knew it she was shaking hands with a group of all 200 of them. “It was just so overwhelming and amazing all at the same time.” As dusk was falling we gathered up some rocks from the top of the hill and built an alter there by the one tree. Brad reminded us that throughout the Old Testament they would build an alter to God whenever he had shown himself. He had certainly done so many times in the past 2 weeks.


At 24 May, 2007, Anonymous Jennifer Noble said...

Wow! I have some catching up to do. I love reading about how people from other countries view Americans and Christians. Thank you for representing us so well!


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