"Karen, it's your lucky day! Edward the carpenter has your license plate!" A team-mate excitedly explained to me on the phone. "What, my plate is back in Soroti?"
A few weeks ago I lost my front license plate while coming home from the northern regions, near Abim. Crossing 11 rivers on the journey, I wasn't exactly shocked to see that my plate was gone. Listening to my neighbour's advice, I went to three different radio stations and put a personal announcement on the air. I gave the stations my information, plate number, and the promise of a reward to the person who would bring my plate back.
For weeks, I heard nothing, but people continuously told me to wait. "The Iteso people are good people... someone will bring your plate to town. Villagers just need time."
Hearing that my plate was back, I remembered that I had promised a reward (which is not uncommon - it should pay for their time bringing it to Soroti) but I had no idea how much that really meant. Over the past few weeks, many people had asked me if I had received my number plate back. :) Not too many Ugandans have a name like "Karen Lubbers" so people knew it was me. To figure out how much I should pay for a reward I went over to the URA office, across from my compound.
URA = Uganda Revenue Authority... the place where I would have had to purchase a new plate eventually. After some fun discussions, I found out that I should pay about 20,000 UGX. ($8) I also learned that some young man had come to the URA office, just a few hours earlier, trying to find the owner of this particular plate. The URA had even looked up my TIN (vehicle registration) in the computer system and they got my name, but somehow when I received my TIN from Kampala, the agency made up a phone number and email address for me... so the information the man carried was false. The URA even suggested they had tried calling me, but I was failing to pick.
I was curious how Edward, the carpenter, had my plate so I called him and he told me that he didn't have the plate, but he had the phone number for the man who does. Within moments I was driving to town, to meet this man and retrieve my plate.
A kind young man stepped up to me and shook my hand, and with a big smile on his face, said "Wow, I have finally found you. I have your plate." Slowly he started to explain to me all he had gone through to find me. A few weeks ago he had heard my announcement on the radio and he happened to be up in the Abim area for work. A young boy had found my plate, so he gave the boy some small money and took the plate back to Soroti. For a few weeks, he didn't have time to do anything about it.... but finally he could make time. He went to the radio stations and all three of them said "Oh, we burned that announcement/contact information since it is now old, but you can leave the plate with us." This young man didn't want them to have the plate, so he went to the police station (where I have now been twice for this plate) and they told him that no plate number like that has been reported, but that again, he should leave the plate. He started to get the feeling that everyone else wanted the reward money even when they didn't bring the plate down from the north. After the URA gave him my name and information, he went to the internet cafe to send me an email, but to a made up address. He then tried to go to a Dutch run orphanage to see if anyone there knew me and they didn't either.
About this time in the story I noticed that he wasn't carrying the plate. He quickly explained that he had left it at his compound just a few kilometres out of town. He suggested that we send a boda taxi out to the village to pick it up, but I told him I could drive him home to get it. As we were driving he continued the story. He remembered that the carpenter he often works for has many mzungu clients, so when he asked Edward if he knew me... the answer was a positive response. The only problem was that Edward didn't have my phone number, so he called my team-mates and told them that my plate was found. Ah.. the story has finally come together.
As we were driving he showed me his family's land and told me of the Lord's blessings. There is a Nigerian song here that goes " OOOOO my God is good O... everything is double double!" Meaning that God pours out double blessings and double anointings. While he was running into his hut to retrieve the plate I started to get the feeling that I needed to bless this man with double double since he had gone through so much run around to try and find me. Just before arriving back into town I gave him his blessing and he was truly grateful. And so was I! Now I'm off to the garage to put the plate back on the front of my car. They are going to secure it double double.
(I have a feeling that I am starting to speak with some Ugandan phrasing, so please forgive my funny English)