I arrived in Uganda on January 10, 2012 and was given a 3 months visitor’s visa. I would need a work permit to live and volunteer my services to Kibaale Community Centre Clinic. So, in late February, I completed the first set of documents with my job description being that of a clinic consultant. Unfortunately, our man on the ground in Kampala “Smith” did not think he would have enough time to complete the process. So, on March 10, Karl and I went into a government office in Masaka. After waiting sometime, I requested a six month extension on my visitor’s visa. I showed the government official my airline ticket with a flight leaving the middle of August…. The government official was very kind and very understanding but told me that he could only grant me a three month extension which would be good until June and I would need to re-book my airline ticket….. In June there was no progress, so “Smith” applied for a special pass. It is basically an extension giving the government time to complete the necessary paperwork. What surprised me ….it is a handwritten comment in my passport allowing me to stay in the country for 3 additional months. This gave “Smith” until October 8; I had time to go back to Canada for the month of August to deal with some issues.. I was able to re-enter Uganda easily.

On October 6, I received a call to say that my work permit was denied. The government recommended that my application be changed from that of a clinic consultant to that of a nurse. Another special pass was granted valid until middle of December. So, I set off with the help of my friends in Canada to find the necessary documents. I did not think that my application to work as a nurse was the right thing to do since I was not going to work or practice nursing. There are many qualified Ugandans nurses and clinic officers. I came to help put the clinic back on its feet… to organize the running of the clinic, to support, encourage and facilitate the care of the students, staff and community. “Smith” told me that the application for a nurse was quick and easy…. I did not believe him.

The days rolled by and I wait for any information from “Smith” but he had no answers. Now it is the middle of December. Another special pass was granted with an expiry date of March 6, 2013….

We were strongly encouraged to change the man in Kampala. “Peter” was hired. In late January “Peter” reviewed my application. My new job description was that of a volunteer.

As always, time was against my application. I was strongly encouraged to go on vacation, a trip out of Uganda for at least 5 days before March 6th so that on my return I could get a 3 month visitor’s visa.

It takes time and preparation to leave the clinic. I had been planning a trip to see more of Uganda with some friends but this plan had to be canceled and the time used for the trip out of Uganda. The internet in Kibaale is poor at the best of times. I tried to search various places in other countries of Africa I would love to visit….. but I was never able to open any Google hits. Each time I tried the whole thing closed down….. I asked my friends in Masaka to help find me a trip. Ken and Carina looked for a trip where all of us could enjoy an inexpensive holiday but they were unsuccessful.

So early Sunday morning February 17, I left Kibaale. I was on vacation for 10 days but had no place to go. No airlines tickets had been purchased. No accommodation booked…. I had no plans in place. I had no idea where I was going but I had two full suitcases.

A normal trip into Masaka takes about 1.5 to 2 hours but not this day. The road from Kibaale to Ssanje was blocked. My land cruiser was checked inside and out at least three separate times by police. My documents are requested three times….. and I got to sit on the side of the road and wait and wait and wait. I was finally informed that the President of Uganda was visiting the village. Only after his motorcade had arrived in the village was I allowed to proceed.

As a result, I arrived in Masaka at 3 pm. I had no idea what to do… I was frantic…. It is challenging to purchase tickets and book accommodation months in Africa. I was absolutely sure that there were no special late minute deals for trip or vacations in Africa. Arleen saw me coming up the stairs at the Timothy Centre and came to my rescue. She is familiar with many vacation destinations in Africa. We tried flights to many of her favourite places such as Capetown, South Africa but no flights were available. Finally, Arleen suggested Zanzibar, Tanzania. Due to the limited availability of flights I was only able to go for 5 days. It was something. Accommodation was the next big problem. Every resort she had used in the pass was booked…… finally we booked a new resort highly recommended TripAdvisor.

On Monday, I traveled to Entebbe for a flight leaving early Tuesday morning. I missed the flight; I set my alarm clock incorrectly. I arrived at the airport 30 minutes prior to departure and was denied entrance. I burst into tears….. I cried. This whole idea of a vacation was getting more and more absurd. This did not feel like a vacation but rather an obstacle course or was it the “Amazing race”??????

I was told that I would have to purchase another ticket if I was planning on traveling to Zanzibar that day. I purchased a second ticket landing in Zanzibar at sunset.. I was going to travel the roads of Zanzibar in a taxi after dark. My beach-side accommodation was an 1.5 hour trip at a cost of $70 US. I just had to barter the price down to $50 US. A very tall, toothless, grey haired local was my driver. Within five minutes of leaving the airport, he stopped, screamed something at me and left me alone in his old, doors do not lock, windows do not close taxi. He returned with a large cup of oil. After putting in the oi, we headed for the gas station. For the next hour, I listened to him justify why he should be paid $70; the cost of gas, his childrens’ education, the car needed repairs, his wife was sick, he was getting old at 59 and wanted to retire. I did not want to hear his story. I truly wondered if any of it was true. Would I arrive at the resort? I prayed. He frequently stopped to ask directions. At one point, he stopped in the middle of the road, pulled out a flashlight and loudly proclaimed “you will not sleep in taxi tonight.” Minutes later we arrived.

One of the good things about this resort was they accepted MasterCard. I had very little US cash….. I was kindly informed that the credit card machine had been broken for months and was expected to pay cash. It was not an all inclusive resort. You paid for your accommodation with meals separate. They were expensive.

I stayed that night. The next morning, I discovered two things; they had internet and many of the other guests had tried to find other accommodation without success. We were all in the same boat. There was no gift shop, no resorts or restaurants in the area. The snack bar was for alcoholic drinks only but they had a espresso machine. So, I relaxed and soaked up the sun, walked the beautiful white sandy beaches, swam in the warm turquoise blue Indian Ocean, enjoyed great cups of coffee and read numerous books from my iPad.

At midnight, I arrived back in Uganda. The purpose of this “forced” vacation was to get a three month visitors visa but the Immigration officer checked my passport and found a valid special pass. No visitor’s visa was granted. I very politely requested a visitor’s visa but she motioned for the next person. I stood dumbfounded.

It is March 7, 2013; it has been over a year since I first applied for a work permit…… “Peter” got me another special pass. This was to be my final one, my last one…. I must get a work permit before May 6, 2013.

It is April 4th, I have just returned from Kenya. Once again, special pass accepted; request for visitor’s visa denied. It seems that nothing is going right with my work permit. Everything we try fails…. I am thinking about what is next when “Peter” calls. I am told that the NGOs have approved my work permit. The NGOs type up their approval and this letter is sent to Immigration. It will take about 3 weeks but usually Immigration accepts the NGOs recommendations. I am finally going to get my work permit.

In the beginning, I was anxious. Everyone I knew had a permit. I prayed and prayed. I asked for prayers….. Then sometime around the early part of January 2013…..I started waking up frequently singing an old hymn or chorus…”trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey”. Even after it was confirmed I had a work permit coming, I still woke up with this song on my heart. I did not know why but I came to a place where I was willing to stay, live and work in Kibaale or go back to Canada. I wanted to trust that Father God knew what was best for me and for the clinic in Kibaale. I would obey his decision.

On April 17, I was working hard to finally complete this blog. I was still living and working in Kibaale. I was expecting a work permit any day.

On April 18, “Peter” called to tell me that my work permit was denied, there were going to be no special passes and I would have to leave the country by May 6. To say I was shocked was an understatement.

I had just over two weeks to hand over the clinic, pack my suitcases and leave Uganda, leave Kibaale. Would I be able to complete the tasks!!!!!!

That next Monday, I headed to Kampala to purchase a computer for the clinic and a few other essentials. I did not do any buying but under the direction of “Peter” spent the day going from one government office to another alone asking why I was denied a work permit. After seven hours of sarcastic comments, I learned that the process for my work permit had been poorly managed right from the beginning. Everything that I have written is wrong.

Did you read that correctly….. Yes, everything that I have written above about my work permit is incorrect. I have never had a work permit nor have I had a denial. The first application is still in progress…. the committee had a number of questions which they are waiting an answer. The progress stopped in early June of 2012. A letter answering the questions plus a document from a government official in Rakai district is requested. It has been sent…..

It is May 7 and I have left the country of Uganda…. I am on vacation heading back to Canada in a few days.

I handed the clinic into the very capable hands of the Ugandans. I packed suitcases…. one of gifts, one for vacations and traveling back to Canada and one for “if” I return to Kibaale I will have clothes to wear.

I still do not have a work permit and who knows if and when I will get one….. GOD KNOWS!!!!!

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