Wednesday, August 20, 2008

From Jinja with Love

Hi everybody.

David here, blogging after our first day at the TAOST school in Jinja, more on that in a minute.

Travels went fairly smooth - the team only lost one bag on their way through Dubai to Entebbe, which we're still hoping will show up soon. Highlights of the very long flight included a game where people were not allowed to say any words using the letter "s." A flight attendant asked Joe about the team and what they were going to do, which he tried to answer sans "s" - to the enjoyment of everyone.

I wasn't able to meet up with the team as Air Tanzania decided to cancel my flight from Kilimanjaro to Entebbe without bothering to tell me, so while the team spent their first night in Jinja, I flew to Dar Es Salaam and then Entebbe on Sunday, where I caught a ride to Jinja. The team, meanwhile, attended a local church service that they enjoyed very much and then got all (let's hope) of their curios shopping out of the way in Jinja on Sunday afternoon.

Last night we all went to dinner with the wonderful Lori Acton, our main point of contact with Fount Of Mercy, the organization that works with TAOST here. Lori's been taking good care of us with all of our spread out arrivals and so forth. Also with us was Julius Wamimbi, one of the older students at the school (19 years old) who has been helping us get the hang of things. Julius says he hasn't played football (soccer) in 4 years now but he made us all look pretty terrible today on the field.

After a nice dinner at a pizza place called 2 Friends, we returned to the hotel to unpack all the luggage packed for the school, organize the supplies, and repack into bags for the week's activities. After a devotion from Cregan, we hit the sack and all met early the next morning for breakfast at 8:30.

Just kidding! Only a few of us were there, certain unnamed individuals needed specialized wake-up calls, and might not have had time for breakfast...

And then we were off in our matatu (taxi van) with Lori and Julius on our way to Day 1 at the school.

Upon arriving we met with the teachers and headmistress for the school, and once all the kids were finally sitting down and somewhat quieted, we did formal introductions of first the teachers and the older students at the school like Julius, and then our group as well. Then it was time for VBS! The groups were split up into youngest, middle, and oldest, and the teams had different reading programs and games to teach each group about reading in English.

After the first stories, we then moved on to our Bible story for the day - Noah and his trusty sailing yacht, and this story culminated in a general focus on the animals he took with him, which was a convenient transition to craft time: Animal Masks!

After crafts it was time for lunch - the children leave the school and we had our sandwiches, and in the afternoon we all walked to the local soccer pitch (field) where we split up for football, duck-duck-goose, wiffle ball (somebody tell the Yankees scouts that they need to start checking out the youngsters of Jinja), and various other games. Cregan was called late in the soccer game for intentionally handling a ball that was clearly going in for a goal. The referee (yours truly) set up the penalty kick but unfortunately the shirts team could not convert, although the game ended in a 7-6 win for them anyway.

The teachers and students at the school have been incredibly welcoming and friendly, and we're all excited about spending the rest of the week together, which is already going much too fast.

After the afternoon games, it was back to the hotel, where the popular vote was for swimming. Cregan of course was the dissenting vote for golf, and I would have joined him had it not been raining here - I generally try to avoid holding metal sticks in the air during thunderstorms. Tommy might have been talked into a game by Cregan, and Mandy looked pretty tired as she hasn't been feeling too good.

Amber is on her way from the Entebbe airport where she arrived today and was met by Lori, and will hopefully join us for dinner as a complete team. Joe, Max, Seth, James, Zazie, Jenna, Bianca, and Jess are all here, healthy, and accounted for (although we're trying to keep the peanuts away from Joe, and everyone's been advised not to bite any mosquitoes). Mandy wanted to swim in the Nile river, which our hotel is on the banks of, just before it empties into Lake Victoria. She decided not to after learning that Hippos are the most dangerous animal in Africa and are known to live in the river. The swimming pool at the hotel will have to do.

The Chronicles of the Sr. High Youth Team of Redeemer Presbyterian Church NYC on their trip to TAOST school of Jinja, Uganda, in conjunction with Fount of Mercy.

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