As we were driving out of a community Thursday morning, Claudette pointed down the road and said, “That’s Uganda.” I knew that we were practically sitting on the border all week and had looked into Uganda from the mountain, but the border crossing was now less than a mile away and I knew that Mike, this being his first trip to Africa, had not yet been to Uganda. So I asked if it was easy to cross and a few more questions. Next thing I know Claudette had talked to Emmanuel, our driver, and we are headed to the border – all of us with big smiles on our faces.
There is just something about spontaneous adventure that is hard to beat. We could have turned around and gone to our next meeting, but we had some time to kill and Uganda was waiting for us. Except I know the visa to Uganda is $50 for Americans, and I did not want to drop $100 to walk on Ugandan soil. But, how can it be adventure if you know how it will work out before it has begun?
When we got out of the car at the Rwandan border (this would be a crossing on foot), I found out that Blandine, who is from this border community had never been to Uganda. Everyone had their papers – three of us passports, one set of national papers, and one set of local papers (that required no visa or stamp to cross). We exited Rwanda and walked to Uganda where I met the immigration officer. I explained what we were doing – that we just wanted to get a soda in Uganda. He waived us on for our little adventure, no visa required. “Please, is there any way to get a stamp in our passports or for you to sign our passports?” I was definitely not above begging. “No – that requires a visa.” (No need to mention the cost for a visa.) So, he waived us in and gave us a small bag of peanuts sitting on his desk – our consolation prize. And so we walked into Uganda with no stamp but eating consolation peanuts. We found the least grungy border hotel, had a warm soda, took some photos, and walked back to Rwanda.
Our time in Rwanda had been great – amazing stories, smiles, laughter, and gorgeous nature. But this adventure was different than everything else. We had conspired together and embarked on a journey that was not planned. No one was in charge and it was all slightly unknown. Both an American and a Rwandan (specifically from that region) visited Uganda for the first time. The smiles and bounces in everyone’s walk were larger than I have seen them any other time. I am so thankful for the good, spontaneous decisions we made that day. Together we journeyed and were filled with joyful adventure.