Mzungu Memoirs

eMi Project Trip, Family Style

We learned a lot on this project trip: about ourselves, God, and life in general.  But I think one of the biggest things we learned is that you can do an eMi trip as a family.

I was a little concerned at first with an eMi staff response of “that’s never been done before”, but we had an awesome team leader who worked with us from the very beginning on how to include Caleb.  The team responded very well to having a child in tow, not a normal dynamic of an eMi trip.  Even Agnes, the ministry contact, seemed to enjoy having a child along.  In fact, one of the days we had left Caleb with friends to get some work done, she asked where he was.

We met the team as a family from the very beginning.  Team members trickled in one by one for breakfast after their late arrival the night before.  After breakfast we sat down for the first time as an entire team.  We started off with testimonies and expectations, a standard first activity on eMi trips.  Andy, our team leader, started and then invited Caleb to share his testimony, which mostly consisted of what he likes about living in Uganda.  Then he went off to play on his video game while the rest of the team shared their testimonies.

With some of the initial “business” out of the way, it was off to the project site, about an hour drive north of Kampala.  At the site, Caleb was already making himself comfortable with the rest of the team, just randomly grabbing the closest hand when he needed help.  He also made himself at home with some local children huddling under a tree to get out of the rain.

Then it was back to Kampala and the eMi office for orientation.  While the team was busy learning the eMiEA way of doing things, Caleb kept himself busy outside playing with whomever was available: the guards, the interns, the kids of other staffers, he’s not picky.

Finally, it was back to the guest house for a late dinner, team meeting and devotional.  Caleb managed to make it through dinner, but crashed on the couch during the team meeting and devotional.  It was quite the trick to figure out how to get a sleeping child home on a motorcycle.  Unfortunately, one of the sadder moments of the trip occurred when Caleb’s backpack fell off the back of the boda where it had been tied.  We had decided to tie it on the boda rather than try to put it on a sleeping boy because Caleb was sandwiched in between Robert and I rather than riding in front where he usually sits and where he could wear the backpack on his front.  Despite retracing our steps all the way back to the guest house once the loss was discovered, the backpack was nowhere to be found.

Saturday we left Caleb with friends so that Robert and I could get some work done programming with the ministry and planning with the team.  Sunday Caleb and I were going to join the team for church while Robert went to our home church to help with the collection.  Unfortunately, Caleb woke up with an upset stomach and we had to stay home.  Fortunately, he had recovered enough by the time Robert returned home from church to head out with us to meet the team.  We arrived at the guest house late and thought we had missed our ride, but they were running later that we were and came in a few minutes behind us.  We met up with the team north of Kampala and made a quick transfer of vehicles so that the survey crew could take the vehicle we were in and we could join the rest of the team in the minibus.

Then it was off to a retreat center for lunch and for Agnes and others from the ministry to share what they liked about the facility in terms of its design.  After a nice lunch of chicken or fish (for those who were a bit more daring) and chips, we headed off to an orphanage/school to explore more design features.  Caleb again made himself right at home with the orphans and asked to go play basketball with them.  He was the only mzungu child in the bunch and easy to spot, so I figured we would not have any trouble finding him again.

Finally, our design exploration was done for the day and it was off to dinner.  Unfortunately, after a late departure from the orphanage and heavy traffic coming back into town, it was another late dinner.  While we were waiting for our dinner to be served, we took the opportunity to get a team picture.  Caleb was hestitant to join us a first, saying he wasn’t really part of the team, but we insisted and he consented.  Then Andy entertained Caleb by teaching him how to play “Thumb War” and showing him a straw and water trick.  By the time we got back to the guest house, we decided to excuse ourselves from the devotional to get Caleb home and in bed before it got any later since it was already 10:00.

We thought the next few days of the project trip would be fairly dull for an active 5 year old boy, so Caleb was able to play with friends while Mommy and Daddy slaved away with the project team.  Each eMi family as well as the interns took a turn looking after Caleb.  But Grandma Maggie took the lion’s share, arriving early in the morning to watch Caleb until the family watching him that day arrived, and returning in the evening when the family brought him back.  She even watched him all day Wednesday and overnight so that Robert and I could stay at the guest house as late as we needed to work on the last push of the project.

By Thursday, we had cycled Caleb through all of our eMi family, so we asked Monica, one of our house helpers to come watch him on her day off (it was a national holiday).  It allowed her to make a little extra money, but it really wasn’t all that expensive for us as babysitting is really cheap here (a little over $4 for the day plus a little extra for her ride home).  Then we paid one of our trusted boda drivers to bring Caleb to where the project presentation and celebration dinner was being held.  Due to Africa Time, Caleb actually arrived in the middle of the presentation but did a marvelous job entertaining himself with the facility’s playground.  Then it was one last dinner with the ministry to celebrate the completion of the project portion of the trip.  We all gave Agnes one last hug, but I think she relished Caleb’s the best.

Friday we headed out for our “closing” time.  The first stop was the Friday Craft Market.  We arrived about an hour before the rest of team and scoped things out.  When the team arrived, Caleb decided to pal around with Andy.  Then he switched and joined Robert, and then he went off with another team member.  Finally, he ended up with me.  Once the team had completed their shopping, we headed to Garden City for lunch.  I think we go there too often to eat because he was greeted with recognition by the wait staff at the place where we always order his pizza.  After lunch, we headed to a retreat center in Jinja where we would stay for the night and have our closing time.  Caleb joined the interns on one of the hammocks on the grounds, swinging and generally being silly with them.  He was right at home.

After dinner, the team was going to have our “closing time” where we process the trip and prepare to return to our daily lives.  I figured it wasn’t really something that Caleb needed to attend, so we set him up with a movie and told him go to bed when it was over.  At one point during the evening, I went back to check on him, and sure enough he had done exactly as we had told him.  I guess our little boy is growing up.

Saturday was filled with more fun with the team and travel back to Kampala.  The hardest part of all was saying good-bye when the team dropped us off at our house and set off for the airport.  Hugs were passed around, of course, but I’m sure the best hugs were given by the littlest team member.

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. – Joshua 24:15

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