Thursday, February 17, 2011

Now What?

This was no time for play.

This was no time for fun.

This was no time for games.

There was work to be done.

So says “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back” that Lilli read to me yesterday. I relate to the main character who is overwhelmed by all that that naughty cat seems to be throwing his way. And like the main character, I have said, “Now what, Cat? Now what?”

Right now, it seems that we are to hold lightly all the calibrated and organized plans that we made to perfectly time our arrival to Bundibugyo before the presidential elections tomorrow. Because here we sit in Fort Portal, with four frozen whole chickens in the freezer for a party that we are not going to attend, a car that is not moving, and a child that just threw up again.

Maybe it all started when we decided to meet up in Nairobi with our friends and future teammates Michael and Lesley and their oh-so-adorable baby Finch. As we were leaving the airport for our 3 hour layover, we noted that the traffic going the opposite direction was quite heavier than the traffic in our outbound lanes. No problem, our drive was only 15 minutes and we could plan accordingly. With that in mind, we ate quickly and dreamed about our shared futures and joined in their celebration of Auburn’s great victory this year. As we 8 packed into their small four door car with an hour until check in, we remembered something…we were in Nairobi traffic. I am not sure there is worse traffic anywhere in the world. In fact, cars started commandeering the other side of the median’s lanes and turned those 4 lanes (which Kenyans use as 6 lanes as lanes are really merely suggestions in Africa) into two lanes of traffic each way. It reminded me of what US governments do during hurricane evacuations to quickly move fleeing people. So now, there were 7 or 8 lanes going inbound and 2ish going outbound from the airport. And then we sat. And then we crawled. And then we sucked diesel exhaust from the monstrous trucks in front, beside, and behind us. Travis, who was taking his turn to suffer from the stomach bug that we brought with us from our vacation, started sighing loudly and I knew he was wondering just what we would do if we missed our flight from Nairobi to Entebbe, Uganda. Lesley’s voice of hope pipes up “I just feel that we will make it” though she called a friend to look up online the small airline we would be flying with. This small airline reminded me of Southwest airlines but with even more of an African attitude of Hakuna Matata. On our past 3 flights with them, the pilot was going down the runway before the fasten-seatbelt light was even on, much less seat belts on! The average lapsed time between the door closing and air under the tires was about 4 minutes, so I knew that this airline was not messing around with delays. Michael’s expert nascar-ish driving pulled us into the airport at 7:17pm and we gathered kids and bags and pushed our way through security as we saw that the “final call” light was next to our flight number on the screen. Since it was an international flight, Travis checked through customs with his passport and ticket and ran to hold our flight while I waited at customs to clear the kids and myself. And then we RAN. Up stairs, through the hall, around the corner, and down a hall, all the way to, of course, the last gate. I looked at the clock on the wall and thought, “does that really say 7:27 and I am still trying to get to my 7:30 flight, running with 3 kids, bags, and in flip flops?”

But we made it. And true to kind African nature, the attendants helped me through a second and then third security and onto the plane. When they asked the other passenger why he was also arriving so late, he shrugged his shoulders and simply said, “Nairobi traffic.”

Arriving into Entebbe, we were greeted by a taxi driver friend who took us to a mission guesthouse, but we had to go to a previous guesthouse to collect our pack-n-play for Aidan’s bed because it had not been transported as we had asked. And then the foods that we had bought and put in a cooler to be put in the fridge at this guesthouse had not been collected and sat out for several days until a worker smelled something stinky and then threw all of our precious cheeses (cherished and expensive) in the trash. About midnight, I was ready to crash, but Patton started throwing up and going to the bathroom often. His body was so hot to the touch. I wondered if it was the same stomach bug that we had, but by 5am, we decided to do a malaria test on him.

And it was positive. Ironically, right where we put down the test kit, a dead mosquito lay. Our best guess is that he has grown faster than we realized and we should have increased his dosage of malarial prophylaxis.

So, by 7 am we pack up all our trunks full of supplies for the next months, bags of dirty laundry, and various bits and pieces, and head out. But first, to buy more cold refrigerated items and then to drop off our passports to continue to pursue a work visa, and then the drive to Fort Portal to have car repairs done.

After lunch, we settled into Pat’s house while the car’s broken mirror was repaired, electrical system serviced, brakes examined, and air compressor fixed. Four hours later, Travis returned to tell me that the air compressor did not arrive and that the last mechanic named Edward in Kampala put dummy brakes on the back brake pads and asbestos brakes on the front. They would have to be replaced again.

Meanwhile, Patton cannot keep any malarial meds or food down for 36 hours now so we have to give him a shot of malarial meds and make the call that he is too sick to drive back to Bundi.

So, we take care of him here today and slowly, he has eaten small amounts and has kept some of it down along with some of the medicine. We sms to the team that we will not be there to lead the weekly team meeting or pizza meal together or school for Lilli, but will leave at sunrise to arrive to Bundi for the Clark’s special day gatherings.

So, when Travis called to say that, upon examination while the brakes were being replaced, it became apparent that the shock absorbers had absorbed all they could handle and would not make it over the mountains even one last time, I just laughed. “Now what, Cat? Now what?”

And the presidential elections start tomorrow. That means that all businesses (including car parts dealers) are closed, petrol is not going to be shipped out here, and public transportation is halted. And while the outcome can probably be predicted pretty accurately, the newspaper is reporting that there could be unrest if people do not feel that elections are handled fairly.

So, we sit here in beautiful Fort Portal because we can do not much else that we planned. The chickens that were to be the main food for the Clark’s Farewell Party tomorrow night are in the freezer here. Our gifts and poems will be given and read at a later date. Patton is sleeping after throwing up again.

If these past two days weren’t all so over the top, I wouldn’t be able to laugh and say once again “Now what?”


  1. Poor Patton! :( I'm praying for him...and you guys, too!!

  2. Dear Johnsons. You probably don't know us but we are praying for you guys. We are friends of the Myrhe family with a long standing connection to Bundibugyo. We live and work in Mwanza, Tanzania. We are praying for healing for Patton, for peaceful elections and for a safe return for to Bundi. kwenye Kristo, Rob Peck

  3. Hugs and prayers from the Carsons in Arizona. We were sad to check in and see such a hard update but it was clear that the Lord brought you to mind for a very specific reason to pray, and we will do just that. Peace and comfort as you care for sweet Patton and for a quick return to your home.

  4. Whew. The problem with vacation is it nearly kills you to get there and back. I hope Mombasa is not completely erased yet. We are praying for Patton. And I think you can relate more now to why we didn't think 4 hours would get us to the airport and back! It's crazy. Glad you made it. We bajungu always use too much optimism in planning what we can squeeze into our time. May God meet you in this forced slow down. Praying. J

  5. sweet friends, I am on my knees. My house is quiet.. everyone is sleeping and somehow i can't. It is no coincidence i suddenly wanted to drop in and see how my favorite Johnsons were doing. Praying for sweet Patton. Praying for all of you. Praying the Lord shower tiny blessings revealing to you He's GOT this... you are DEARLY loved.

  6. Amy! I wish I could hug you right now! I am praying and will continue to pray for Patton! You guys are such a testimony to the strength, perserverance, steadfast faith, and selflessness that can only come from God. I love you so much!!!

  7. Praying and loving from our house.
    Thanks for the updates.
    SO GLAD you got away for birthdays.
    katie and co.

  8. I am praying for you guys. It is so overwhelming. We love you and are lifting up sweet patton for healing and traveling mercies when you do get to go home to Bundi. Many blessings to you guys.