DAY 6 | I am Ironman

The day before when Dave and Eric came to visit, Dave told me that his father had arranged for an appointment with the king of Teso (the tribe our families belonged to) and had invited me to join them. I was so psyched for the opportunity to meet the cultural leader, and when I woke up (feeling like death) there was no way I was going to miss out on meeting him.

Erina was leaving this day to go back to school, so I tried to take breakfast (and failed) with her then she was going to walk me to Dave and Eric’s and then leave from there. If I haven’t mentioned before, Ugandans’ concept of time is a little different than Americans’. While Dave had told me to be at their compound at 10 am, I was freaking out when we arrived there at 10:10 am, thinking they’d left without me for sure. We got there, chatted, said our good-byes to Erina and didn’t end up leaving until after 11.

The king’s home was about 5 miles away. I think a 5 mile walk is pretty intense as it is, but when you’re walking on no sleep, with an empty stomach, in the African heat, it makes it a little more extreme. When we finally arrived, I was so exhausted I barely uttered a word and let Dave do all the talking. I did, however, finally do the culturally acceptable thing and kneeled to the king. I hadn’t done it at all, even though I knew I should’ve just because I have a huge issue with the idea of being submissive. I figured if I was going to do it, the king was probably a good choice to do it for. We stayed for about an hour talking to the king, and made sure to get a picture with him (all the while I was trying impossibly hard to stay conscious).

The best part of the day was the walk back (that was sarcasm). By this time, it was at least 10 degrees hotter and I was in bad shape. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you, the walk back home was one of the most physically challenging things I’ve ever done in my life. I kept re-playing the scene from Ironman in the beginning where he’s escaped the terrorists and is wandering through the desert stumbling all over himself, trying to walk, in my head. I think all that kept me going was the water I (smartly) brought with me and the fact that I kept telling myself “I am Ironman.”

I didn’t go directly back to my compound, but hung out some more with Dave, Eric and their Dad at their place for awhile and ended up having lunch with them. His father had only hosted boys before and absolutely adored me. He invited me to stay until supper as well. I told him I would’ve loved to, but I needed to spend time with my family since it was my last day with them. I really did love their father though. He was an incredibly intelligent and active man, and I was shocked when Dave later told me that he was 76 years old, because I had guessed early 60’s.

Since it was our last day on homestays, Dave’s family was going to let him slaughter the chicken. Unfortunately, his camera battery had died, so I told him to take mine and he could return it later that night. Dave and Eric gave me a push back, and when I got back my Toto had been very lonesome, and truthfully, I’d been missing her as well. I finally got some one-on-one time with her and after talking for a few hours I went to my room to rest because the day had completely worn me out. Toto came in to wake me when Dave and Eric had come by to visit one last time and return my camera. Dave spent most of the time playing with Opio (they’d become play buddies over the week) and then offered to take pictures of me with my family.

When it was time for the boys to leave, Papa and I gave them their last “push.” I had to say good-bye to Eric which kind of broke my heart a little because he was one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met, and he was just adorable. I had a semi-awkward cultural moment when he gave me a good-bye hug. I went in, pulled back, and then realized he was going in to my other side (which is how Ugandans hug; on both sides). Slightly awkward, but oh well.

When I got back home, I bathed, chatted with Papa and then took dinner with my whole family, which I’d never done before. I still didn’t have my appetite back so ate very little, but I was able to stomach what I did eat. After supper, I gave my family the gifts I’d brought for them and my Toto couldn’t even believe that I’d given them a disposable camera for “snaps.” All she kept was saying “Oh, how God has blessed us” and kept thanking me. Just goes to show how poor most of are at counting our own blessings.

I headed to my hut afterward, and since Erina had left, I shared the room with the Karamajong girl they had helping around the house. We didn’t speak at all since neither of us knew each other’s language, but I ended up sleeping very well after such an activity-packed day.

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