Travelogue: Day Four – Part Two

(Continued from Day Four – Court)

Nothing like having a machine-gun-toting guard giving you a once-over before being allowed entrance to a mall parking lot!

Cafe Javas, the restaurant our driver Francis suggested for our after-court late afternoon meal, was located at the corner of a small shopping mall. Security is tight at these locations after the 2010 bombing in Kampala by a Somali branch of Al-Qaida — and even more so after the horrific mall bombing in Kenya last year where non-Muslim westerners were specifically targeted. I found the men with machine guns somewhat reassuring, but also an alarming reminder that danger lurks closer in Africa than America.

Regardless, we were impressed by the restaurant, with its coffee offerings and full menu geared toward western tastes. And there was air conditioning, a rarity indeed! We had three tables put together, to seat us, both drivers, the pastor and his wife, Pearl, her birth mom, her uncle and the probation officer.

In case you’re wondering what’s in those glasses, it’s fruit juice, which I found our Ugandan friends generally preferred over soda. The light orange is passion fruit juice, which I’d discover the next day at breakfast is simply fantastic. The darker orange is a papaya/passion blend, I think. Anyway, the atmosphere was festive and Pearl asked for fish, rice and chips (french fries). Donnie happily ordered a cheeseburger, fries and a double espresso. My stomach was still off, so I thought I was safe ordering a simple cheese quesadilla. I’d learned that it’s a real insult in Uganda to leave food on one’s plate, especially when so many are starving. So I thought it would be like ordering a quesadilla at a Mexican restaurant at home, where they just bring me a little dry-grilled tortilla with cheese on a small plate.

You know, just a safe little something to refuel me but not overstress my tummy.

Well, I was wrong. The portion sizes in this restaurant were enormous! The tortilla used to make this quesadilla must’ve been at least 12″ around, and it was damp as if it had been fried in oil. It was quartered and served on a huge platter heaped with pinto beans, guacamole, pico de gallo and a rice pilaf studded with big chunks of carrots, peppers and peas.

Yikes. I would’ve taken a picture but I thought they would think I was so bizarre for doing that!

I nibbled a few bites of everything. The cheese’s flavor was odd to me. All the side dishes were very flavorful and I lamented not being able to enjoy more of them. Pearl kept asking me what was wrong, why was I not eating, and I tried to explain that I still didn’t feel well enough to eat much food.

Everyone else really dug into their meals, however, and would’ve won Clean Plate Awards if we’d have been giving them out! When the pastor noticed I wasn’t eating much, he said, “Well, give the remainder to them — they will eat it.” He was referring to his wife and Pearl’s mom. I said OK and slid my plate over. Between them and Pearl, they ate it all. I truly do not mean anything rude in saying this, but it was surprising to see these ladies have room for all their food and mine, too! But as someone told us later, that was probably the nicest meal some of them had ever had, and their bodies are used to adjusting to feast or famine. This same person also politely chided Donnie for leaving food behind when we left. He said, “In Uganda, you never leave a remainder. You should’ve had them wrap it up and we could’ve given it to a homeless person on the street.”

(Total interjection here, but that stuck with me and those whom I’ve told the story. Here in America, sometimes you can’t get homeless people or beggars to take even fresh food or let you buy them a meal. But there? Hunger is so real and prevalent, they will gratefully accept even food that someone else had touched or bitten off of. Just another of hundreds of ways this trip provided us with a deeper understanding of poverty.)

After the meal, we stood around for a while, taking photos and saying goodbye to those heading back to Jinja that night, which was everyone except us, Francis and Pearl. After they left, we went to the pharmacy, then back to the guesthouse where we all changed into more comfortable clothing. We finally received a call that our missing luggage had arrived at the airport, so Francis and Donnie drove off to Entebbe again while Pearl and I had some mother/daughter time.

We sat out on this lovely porch until nightfall…

Pearl played games on the Kindle, and I also had her read some passages to me so I could get an idea of where she is with her English reading and comprehension.

After dark, we went inside to the lounge. One of the guesthouse maids was watching TV and I found her selections very amusing. For a while, she watched a lively TBN-like Christian music show that was performed in both Luganda and English. Then there was a Hispanic soap opera that was dubbed in English; after that, an Indian Bollywood-ish soap opera that was dubbed in Luganda with random English phrases thrown in. Pearl was interested in all the shows and I passed the time checking Facebook and email on my phone, and then a sweet lady I knew from the Ugandan adoption group on Facebook came in and we talked for a long while. Finally, Donnie came back with our bag and we turned in for the night.

It was our first time that both of us were alone with Pearl, and she was just as sweet as could be. I gave her some new pajamas and she quietly changed into them. She played with her dolls for a few minutes, then hugged us goodnight. She neatly tucked the dolls and a stuffed animal under the blanket beside her. She dropped down her mosquito net and we never heard a peep from her until morning.

And then Donnie tucked in our net, and it was lights out, our first full night with our new daughter….