Ugandan offers Thanksgiving to UCU Partners Board Member
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2019/11/ugandan-offers-thanksgiving-to-ucu-partners-board-member/
By Julius Mucunguzi,
Communications Advisor to the Prime Minister
Those who have read my book, “Once upon a time – the Story of Keeping Hope Alive” (2014) may remember where I write about my first travel to the United States as a fresh young man in May 2000 – arriving at Dulles Airport, Washington, DC, with no luggage.
After waiting alongside the conveyor belt for the entire luggage to come through without seeing my bag, I walked out through the huge lounge unsure of what to do next. I only had on me $70 dollars, which I had planned to use to get a taxi to the Ellipse Apartment in Fairfax, Virginia, and wait for the stipend that would come from the Weatherspoon Fellowship at the Family Research Council, which admitted me for an internship.
My eyes were welling with tears of fear and anxiety. Here I was – in a foreign land for the first time in my entire life – with no luggage apart from the clothes I was wearing.
Unknown to me, a friend, Rev. Canon Geoffrey Byarugaba, aka Uncle Geoff, who recommended me to the fellowship, had informed this couple on the right hand side – Jack and Linda Klenk – about the details of my travels and they decided to come to pick me up from the airport.
As I stood staring at the different signposts, I saw my name written on some manila paper held high by two people with very warm and wide smiles. The sight of the name “Julius Mucunguzi” took me by surprise. I walked over and announced that I was the one.
“We are here to pick you and take you to your apartment,” Jack said.
“Where is your luggage?” Linda asked.
” I have no luggage. It did not come,” I replied, almost sobbing.
“Do not worry,” Jack told me. “It will come when it does. For now, let us first take you to buy some clothes.”
I had packed about 10kgs (22 pounds) of millet and sorghum floor so I would make ekisyanga, a special type of a traditional Ugandan beverage called bushera. It was common for those of us who went to boarding schools in those days.
I jumped into their vehicle, and off they drove me to a huge shopping mall.
Here, inside a large Wal-Mart store, they asked me to choose clothes of my choice, but I was timid, not knowing what to pick or leave and fearing to appear like someone abusing their generosity. Jack noticed it and simply picked several shirts, trousers, vests, boxers, a jacket, and shoes. He put all of them in a cart. Meanwhile Linda picked spaghetti, bread, milk, sugar and lots of tinned foods and added them to the metal cart. We walked over to the counter, and they paid the whole bill.
They took me to the Ellipse Apartments near the Government Centre in Fairfax, and I entered the house. After they had left, I quickly started fitting myself in the new clothes.
They fit me so well. They were the best clothes I had ever owned. Alone in the room, I jumped up and down, thanking God for the loss of my luggage. If my luggage had come, which contained some very old trousers and shirts I had been wearing at campus and a pair of old shoes that looked like dried fish, perhaps they would never have taken me to the shopping mall.
Jack and Linda would from that day become my family in DC. I later learned that they loved Ugandans with a passion. They had been picking up many Ugandans from the airport. They even had turned their huge house in Lorton, Virginia, into some sort of Uganda House where they would host students and elders alike.
In the years that followed, several other friends would benefit from their generosity, including Mike and Monica Chibita (Uganda’s chief prosecutor and Uganda Christian University dean of journalism and media studies, respectively), Ethan Musollinii (motivational speaker and human resource consultant based in Kampala), Enock Mayanja Kiyaga (journalist based in the United Kingdom), Aloysius Bisigirwa (residing and working in Washington, DC), David Bahati (Uganda’s minister of finance) and many more.
I would later learn that Jack’s love for Uganda started in the 1960s when he travelled to my country as a student teacher and taught at Sebei College in Kapchorwa.
The couple often visits Uganda. On their trip in October 2019, I was attempting “to revenge” – a Ugandan slang popularized by one of Uganda’s former Presidents. It means to return the favor. While seemingly inadequate, I humbly offer these words as part of the favor.
For more of these stories and experiences by and about Uganda Christian University (UCU) students and graduates, visit https://www.ugandapartners.org. If you would like to support UCU, contact Mark Bartels, Executive Director, UCU Partners, at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to https://www.ugandapartners.org/donate/