Friday, May 16, 2008

A Big Metal Box--Part One

When we first moved to Uganda, most living supplies were not easily available in this land locked country. In the capital city (about 7 hours drive from us at the time) we shopped at two smallish "supermarkets" that carried Kenya made items and we bought our meat from one of two nice butchers in the capital city. Here in our own town, meat could be purchased live and butchered yourself or bought in the fly-infested meat markets of our local shops.

Larger items like refrigerators, stoves, living room chairs, beds, dressers...all were either not available, very used and broken or super expensive.

We were advised, as we planned to move our life across the ocean, to purchase some goods and send them on a sea container. A sea container is virtually a big metal box. It is filled at your home in America, trucked to the nearest sea port and then shipped to Mombasa, Kenya. Where it is then loaded on a truck or a train and brought across Kenya and Uganda into Kampala where it is stored.

In Kampala, you must clear the container with 500,000 different people. (oh, I kid) After the final person signs the final document, you can load the box back onto a truck and have it driven to your home for unloading.

In 1995, we shared a 20 ft container with another family. We had 10 ft of space. We brought our wedding gifts, a propane stove, a propane refrigerator, and a propane chest freezer. We also brought a couch, loveseat and an old recliner that was my Grandpa's. Jeff had two motorcycles and my sweet Granddaddy had fixed us up with every lawn and small engine article available to man (chainsaw, weedeater, lawnmower, tiller, generator).

We did not receive our container on this side until 9 months after our arrival. Nine months of sleeping on the floor, sitting on the floor and struggling through meal prep from scratch with only two burners to work with.

Our landlord loaned us an electric refrigerator for those nine months, but after our first trip to the capital to stock up on meat, we returned home to 5 days of absolutely NO POWER...which translated to $50 of precious meat, spoiled and ruined.

Jeff and I became vegetarians at that time. Not by choice really. Just by necessity. We ate alot of soups. And we longed for fajitas from home. As we enjoyed our vegetable soup, Jeff and I would talk about American food. For hours. Then we would cry. (Or I would cry. Jeff would just look sad and hungry. :-))

We made it, though. And when that shipment arrived we rejoiced. Jeff and his Dad (who was visiting us at the time) drove across Uganda twice with loads of our treasures. We began the agonizing work of setting everything up. Propane tanks had to be secured and fittings reworked with no stocked hardware store to help out.

Over the years of adjusting, settling in and having a family we were blessed by the items from that first shipment. We did need to purchase locally made items, as well as using what we brought from the States. We purchased beds with foam mattresses and had shelves and dressers made by carpenters in the area. The shelves and cabinets proved to be difficult endeavors. Wet wood became our nemesis, warping furniture beyond recognition. We borrowed some furniture items for our babies and scoured the Sale Lists posted in Kampala by departing expats for other items we needed.

Every missionary or expatriot that would move back to the their homeland would put out a sale list. Such sale lists were gold. From the departing missionaries one could score American bath mats, transformers, baby furniture, TVs and other treasures. Granted, the items would be well used and worn...but gold, nonetheless.

Always, in the back of our mind, a "if we had access to a container" list grew.

When the Lord led us to Glenwood church of Christ this mental wish list had grown long. In one of our first meetings with Glenwood's mission committee, they asked about helping us with a container. The idea was suggested that they buy the container, park it in their parking lot and fill it over a period of time. A list of desired goods was requested of us. We were stunned. We eventually did make a list and continued to dream of another shipment.


Trisha said...

You tease us, friend! We want to know the rest of the story.

And I can't wait to SEE you!!! We're making plans...

Matt Tibbles said...

I love to read the stories you write. Can't wait to see you all.