Thursday, July 19, 2018

Uganda Team 25 - Day 16-19

Uganda team 25 Day 16-19

Goodbye was hard on our last night, as we drove away from the Village of Hope.   The kids blessed us with dances and so much love –  with certificates in hand we headed home to pack. 
The bus was there just before 8am the next morning and we loaded all our luggage on board, said our goodbyes to Juliet, Grace, Ivan and Robert and set our sights on Entebbe airport.

We had a fantastic run! So much that we had half an hour to stop at a Mall and have a much needed ‘comfort’ break and get coffee. Josh found KFC and made a bee line for that!
At the airport we only had a short wait and we were all checked in and waiting for our flight to Johannesburg, curious and excited about what the next few days would bring.

We were picked up in Johannesburg and ferried to a lovely hotel for a night, as we would catch a flight the next morning out to Kruger National Park. The first thing we noticed…. It was soooo cold!  The high points were lovely rooms for us all - Piper had a long soak in the hot bath and we all loved the buffet breakfast. Some of us ‘rolled’ out of there (another sausage Josh?).
It was a very short 35-minute flight to a place called Hoedspruit airport, which is an old military building, and we were met by a driver to take us to our lodge for the next 2 days of safari.

The lodge was beautiful, but we had thirty minutes to drop our bags and jump into a safari vehicle with our fearless guide Ishmael, and head out for 3.5 hours of safari…
Well, we hit it big on our first drive! We saw elephant, zebras, wildebeest, monkeys, a pride of lions and a leopard!  The leopard was sleeping only a couple of metres away from the vehicle, and Ishmael drove us right into a pride of lions – one walked by so close to the car we could have touched it.   We were pretty pumped, and excited. Our guide said we’d been extremely lucky, we think… #blessed!  We had pre-dinner drinks, with biltong and other snacks in the middle of the bush, where we could have easily been eaten by a lion, but thankfully we just enjoyed each other’s company and the stunning African sunset. 

Back at the lodge a lovely dinner was set up outside with warming fire pits and beautiful lighting.. We dined on pork chops, beef stew, and many other great foods… and relaxed with a drink.

It was so cold we all couldn’t wait to get into our warm beds. that and the fact that the day had been full of impressions and travel…  AND… we were being woken at 4.45am the next day for a 5.30 start to an all-day game drive.  

The ominous knock at our doors came at 4.45 am.  We all looked tired but pretty good for that hour! We loaded ourselves into our safari vehicle, first of all donning the brown blanket/coat/poncho’s designed to keep us warm as we zoomed along at 50kph in the sub-zero temperature.  We looked like a bunch of tele-tubbies, and had a good laugh at ourselves – we were thankful for them though, as the wind was so cold!  

The safari today was through Kruger National Park, which is 22 000 square km’s or 2.2million hectares.  We travelled about 300kms over 9 hours and it was awesome seeing the world wake up.  We all got a pack with our breakfast in it, and we stopped for a delicious picnic lunch, but the rest of the time we spent in the vehicle.  We had to drive a lot further between sightings – I think that last night’s safari, with 4 of the big five seen in a 2 hour period, and up so close, spoiled us a bit for today – but over the day we saw some amazing animals – 2 cheetahs stalking along the side of the road, and crossing in front of our vehicle, a bull elephant having a stand-off with a lion, a herd of elephants running to the waterhole to drink, a leopard relaxing in a tree, hippos wallowing in the water with crocs sunning themselves on the bank, giraffes chewing the tops out of trees, and dozens of zebras, wildebeest, gazelles, antelopes, impalas, eagles, squirrels, hares, stacks of birds, ever changing landscapes all accompanied with interesting information from Ishmael.   It was an amazing day! 

Afterwards we relaxed for an hour and then met for a bit of a ‘hb team 25 debrief’… it was great to hear each other’s reflections on our favourite things, most difficult things, what we enjoyed about the team, and how we think this experience could change us… it was a challenging and encouraging time. We then headed into the ‘Boma’ (an outdoor dining area) for our last dinner under the African stars.  

This morning we leave Timbavati to drive 7 hours through the guts of South Africa back to Johannesburg, for our flight home.  A quick-ish stopover in Perth, and we’ll be home at 7.30pm on Friday evening.  Sigh.

Thanks for reading the blog the past few weeks...  Please keep us in your prayers as we travel home..

See some - only 'some' - pics below..

Monday, July 16, 2018

Uganda Team 25 - Day 15

Day 15....

Waking up for the last full day in Uganda when it only seemed like yesterday that we arrived. Being Sunday, it meant that we could have a little sleep in before we set off. We all got our nice church outfits on and walked up. Today was men’s worship day, meaning that only men were singing songs at the start. Andrew then stood up and talked about Joshua 3:1 and how we need to always keep our eyes on God. 

After the service, we walked back to the house and some people started packing bags in the spare time. An hour later, we walked up to the Village of Hope for the last time. The kids were excited as always to see us and so they had put on a little farewell celebration for us which consisted of dancing, singing, speeches and snacks. Each team member received a certificate for our work with the village and we were all so grateful. Some people also receiving little heartfelt goodbye notes from the kids, Piper getting five! All the kids were also given a soft drink each and let’s just say that they got wild on the sugar! It was then time to say our goodbyes and there were some tears going around. We let with heavy hearts and with the kids waving us away. We arrived back at Suubi house for our last dinner in Uganda, we can all testify that Uganda has been a fantastic experience and are all sad to leave! 
Tomorrow, early…we begin our ‘slow’ journey towards home, stopping in Sth Africa to enjoy a couple of days R&R and seeing some of the wildlife.

A few pics below..

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Uganda Team 25 - Day 14

Day 14

Today started really early!!  We got up at 5.30 to make the hike up ‘Monkey Mountain’ to watch the sun come up. It’s about a 40 minute walk along a bumpy road in the dark!
But whilst we were confronted by clouds, it was still an amazing sight watching the light come up behind the clouds and looking down towards Village of Hope.
After sitting and admiring for a time, we decided to trek back down to a yummy breakfast of ‘Rolex’ – yum.. We have been so spoiled with the food at Suubi!
Philippa led us in a devotion to round off our breakfast time.

Then it was time to head up to the village to introduce the kids to LEGO!!  We had 2 huge suitcases full of Lego for the kids to play with, along with 4 specially made ‘mats’ to play on that double up as bags when you pull the draw strings – ingenious.
What a hit!!!  The kids loved it and got right into it with the help and instruction of the team… Our 2 lovely social workers and Samuel the Village coordinator helped along to be able to supervise future Lego times..
There were so many ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the kids and creativity only took about 3 minutes to emerge with some of the creations. They didn’t want to finish and can’t wait to play with it again!!  Thanks to some very generous donors and supporters in Australia!!

After play, it was back to Suubi for some lunch and a rest. Lunch was a lovely mix of mince and vegetables that Juliet made that was very nice… This was followed by a quiet hour and half as we rested, getting ready to head into town to do a boat trip to the Source of the Nile.
We all piled onto a boat and headed out with William for an hours boat trip on Lake Victoria.  Educational and scenic were the words to describe the trip.  We saw amazing birds and also were told how the Nile begins its 3-month journey here on its way to Egypt. Pretty cool!!!

To top off our day we headed out to a place further up the Nile called ‘The Black Lantern’, a place to sit and enjoy a few drinks and eventually a meal, except for Josh it was more than ‘a’ meal.. He had a full rack of spare ribs that came on an oversized plate, and still hung over the edges! He tried valiantly to eat everything on the plate and almost did – pretty well done. We all had lovely meals and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and location, accompanied by a few monkeys in the trees!!

Tomorrow is our last day here, and we are definitely ‘not’ looking forward to that!! L
We will have a farewell at the Village which will be fun although a little sad…
But for today…. What a day!!

Pics below..


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Uganda team 25 Day 13

Today our lovely Juliet cooked up a treat with a range of scrambled eggs – plain, plain with herbs and some with fresh tomato (the freshest some of us have ever tasted!) and some toasted rolls and bread. They were polished off with lightning speed with Josh cleaning up the last in pretty quick fashion! We have been so blessed by Juliet’s cooking and the way she has catered for a couple of us (weird ones), who have had some dietary needs has been wonderful. 
Elisha bought us a devotion based on Ps 46:1 and having faith in our Father. Elisha spoke from her heart about the deep faith in Christ that has been evident in our travels. Elisha was reminded of Edith’s story and how her deep faith in Jesus has seen Home Of Hope come to be. On one of our bus trips we sang and heard the story of Horatio Spafford who penned the heartfelt Hymn of Praise “It Is Well” after deep loss and suffering. A great reminder that even in our own trials, it is in these trials that our Faith is strengthened. Definitely a theme in some of our devotions and discussions. 

With full bellies, we headed off to Home Of Hope for our final day of painting and design work on the internal walls. The space itself is the end result of a couple of years of fundraising by Leonnie, her friend Tina and a bunch of friends. Tina had initially been to Home Of Hope and on return discussed with Edith what she and her team dreamed of for the children. And so, the play space journey began! Tina and Leonnie worked with Johann Poppenbeck and many discussions later fundraising efforts such as tin shakes on intersections, a trivia night, a very special women’s afternoon, exercise classes and a host of other initiatives over time, finally raised the funds needed for the space. Through discussions and planning, it was important for the space to provide an inclusive, functional space for kids with a range of disabilities to have access and for the space to be inviting, fun and vibrant. It was also imperative that the kids could spend time in play, away from the Home, where they spent a large amount of their day. 
And so, the funds have built the covered outdoor area, a swing set has been constructed and painted and the ground between the Home and the play space has been levelled to make the ground more accessible. Raised garden beds have also been constructed to help kids in wheelchairs to touch and feel and see the growth of herbs that are now being used in the day to day cooking at the Home. 
The final touches and amazing art work that was from the hearts of Liesje, Phillipa, Hillie, Piper, Josh, Monique, Elisha and Shae was completed today and we’re sure you’ll agree, this space is bright and reflective of the Joy that God feels for these precious children. Being fun, inviting and vibrant is a win for the fundraising team too!
The back wall as seen in the pictures, has been inscribed with “Rejoice in the LORD always” which has been sung in wonderful Spirit and harmonies by the team over our time here. And to see the Joy on Edith’s face and to see how much this space means to her, is a true testament of seeing her hopes and dreams realised for the lives of these kids. 
Inasmuch as there is still some work to be done to sow grass on the levelled ground for the swing to be fully erected and one wall has intentionally been left blank for the next team (thanks UG26!), to design a sensory wall filled with items of different textures along with some mosaic work, we leave Home Of Hope knowing that this part of the journey for Edith, Tina, Leonnie and friends as well as the amazing team that have bought this to life, is complete. This space will continue to grow and evolve into a space where all kids with all disabilities can enjoy the kind of play some of our own kids take for granted. And what a blessing it is know the foundations are in place for kids to flourish!
After a lightning quick change of clothes, we headed into town and had a great lunch at “The Keep” and then we hit the shops! And boy, did we hit the shops! The bags of wares were opened up when we got back and fair dinkum, it looked like our own market stall. Perhaps we could even start our own business!
We are about to experience Juliet’s lasagne which will be a treat and for the weird ones, we’re have shepherd’s pie!!
Till tomorrow, love and peace from all of us! J

Pics below..