Arrival at Entebbe Airport: Trip 6

After an eight our flight to Rwanda, sitting in the plane for an hour while a few people joined us for the 38-minute trip to Entebbe, I finally arrived at the destination. My first hope was to find wi-fi, get a hold of Kris and ask since I already had a visa (stamped, by the way) what should I do? If they see I already have one that has been stamped, would I get in trouble? I was the only one making the trip, so I felt it important to get through.

I have been to this airport so many times, I knew the drill. Before approaching immigration, I had to show a passport, a health questionnaire and proof of a yellow fever vaccination. Then I walked to a booth to have my visa stamped-at least last time I did. Instead, we were directed outside into an area with large tents. I had to get tested, again! I was third in line in front of a booth. After about 10-15 minutes, I walked in and got another swab up the nose (Ugandan tests have been rather invasive). I was told to go through customs, pick up my bags (which were still in Amsterdam) and go to another space, pay for my test ($35), and wait my test results before being let out of the airport and to Kris Mobbs who was waiting to pick me up. I was told it would take an hour.

Next was going through immigration. I was not sure how this was going to go given my visa situation. I walked up to the in-person visa purchase (as opposed to e-visa) line and the man asked for my passport. I was the only one in line and he was really chatty, wondering about how much money Americans make and a number of other small talk items. He didn’t express any concern toward me-to my relief. I asked if my friends showed up the next day if they would be able to purchase visas on site. He said no problem. 

I skipped the baggage area, as I had none to pick up, and proceeded outside, where Kris is usually waiting to pick us up. We chatted a bit, but I was hurried to the waiting area for my test. They told us where we could meet once I was cleared. I walked up a long ramp and to a large, newer hall. I was to pay for the test. Step one, go to a money exchange place to get schillings for dollars. Next get in a line to pay for the test. Then wait.

I tried to get some wi-fi to keep Mike, Peter and Kris apprised as to what was going on. The network and password were prominently displayed but not functioning. I found a seat. I walked around the rather large hall for a while. How things unfolded is that a person would come up to the hall, grab a microphone and start reading names of people to pick up their results. Between the accent of the reader (it was in English), the unfamiliar names and the echoing of his voice off the walls, it was difficult to understand. The photo for this blog is of test results being handed out in the airport).

We were then told that we should expect a 1.5 to 2 hour wait. It was around this time that I found out that this was the first day of testing (lucky me). They were figuring things out as they went along. People were clearly agitated at the inefficiency, with some of them yelling at the workers. 

I struck up a conversation with a lady from Uganda who just got back from six weeks in England. She asked me what I was doing in Uganda, and I told her about our training as well as the mercy ministries that took place where the Pastoral Training Center is held. She was very impressed.  Her 90-year-old father died right before she left for Europe, and she was struggling with the brief grieving period. She had a heavy heart. After asking a series of questions I asked if she would be comfortable with me praying for her right there in the hall. She quickly said yes and I prayed for her before I moved to a different spot (where it was apparent wi-fi was working). I let Kris know what was going on via text and continued to wait. 

I got to wi-fi and updated my friends. I am now waiting when the lady I prayed came up to me and showed me a $100 bill that she would like to be passed along to help the poor in the Gulu area. She then showed me a picture of her father on a Ugandan business glossy magazine cover .He barely looked seventy and he looked like a vibrant leader. I told her I would see that the money would go in her desired direction. She then asked for my contact info as they would be starting a foundation in her father’s name and she’d like to see that more money came our way (our meaning Uganda, not Hudson).

Groups of names continued to be read, and I did not hear my name. After waiting a bit more, I remembered that I was supposed to file a missing luggage report for my bag that never left Amsterdam. I made my way to the exit when I was stopped by a soldier. As I was explaining my need to go back into the terminal, I heard my name called out. The test was negative, which is positive. Armed with my documentation for freedom, I went back to the entrance explaining myself four different times as I made my way bag to the baggage handling area. After about 20 minutes of filling out the report, I went back toward the testing site, walked past it and found Kris. Thirty-three hours from arriving at MSP I was firmly and legally in Uganda-without Mike and Peter. This was 2 am local time on Thursday. We still had to figure out what we were going to do with Mike and Peter, and the four totes. Time to get a shower and some sleep as I had probably slept two hours in that time frame.

Larry Szyman

Pastor for Missional Life