Thursday morning started out slow until Carl called Caroline at the orphanage and informed us that the king of the Tooro kingdom was at Faith’s house! So, silly us, we hurried there thinking we’d be back soon but of course, nobody tells us anything important and we actually took the 40 minute drive straight to Fort Portal right then and there to visit the king at his house. At the palace. In our plain, everyday clothes. I was even wearing pants that day ( :[ ) but at least had my camera on me.
The king’s palace is on the highest hill in Fort Portal. In Rotooro, the hill’s name means “let the people see”. It had a fantastic view and we certainly took a lot of pictures. Unlike us, the other team, EmbraceUganda, and select members of BHTF, were forewarned about the little excursion and were dressed in their best. They looked super important. Even Victor, a 5 year old at the orphanage, had on a little suit that he kept tucking in.
Before seeing the king, we were greeted by a man in sunglasses and a necklace made out of a tusk or some sort of ivory. He had more of an American accent and introduced himself as (I think) head of economic/financial outreach… Or something. He’s traveled a lot in the US and I’m sure everywhere else, but he never took off his sunglasses. In fact, he was very chill and used a lot of slang.
The palace turned out to be more like a two story mansion. Very luxurious compared to its surrounding. Right next to the door was a scary looking stuffed lion and the very first room was the throne room, super open and spacious. Above, you could see a ton of doors lined up and the ceiling was very high with birds flitting back and forth. There was also a chandelier that didn’t quite fill up the entire ceiling but was still pretty. The king’s throne was at the front center of the room and in front of it were white couches and chairs behind those. There weren’t enough seats so most of the girls sat on the ground, as according to tradition.
We also met an American woman named Margaret who lived at the palace as a visitor. She wasn’t officially a diplomat but apparently was the queen’s (the king’s mother) guest and good friend. They met completely by chance, which is crazy. She told us how in the 1970’s, all of the Ugandan kings had to go into exile and when they returned, the current king’s father was only on the throne for a little before he died. So King Oyo became the youngest king at age 3.5 years old. And apparently he’s still the world’s youngest king at 19.
After waiting a bit, the king came out through a door very nonchalantly wearing a long white tunic/robe. He was very tall and honestly sat like he could’ve been on the Duke basketball team. Apparently he’s not really allowed to smile in public so he looked very bored while we all took turns greeting him. BHTF had already taught us most of the proper manners when bowing to the king. The biggest things were that you shouldn’t turn your back to him or touch his chair but most of us did both anyways. Oh well. But if you’re a woman, you bow simply by sitting down on your toes until he taps your shoulder. If you’re a man, you do two push-ups turning your head to each side. It took a long time for everyone to go, but now I can say I’ve been touched by a king!
Afterwards, Faith said a few words and introduced each volunteer group. The king’s mother also came down to see us and she had about the prettiest skin tone I’ve seen. She wore purple and praised our work, thanking the volunteers. We took a couple pictures and the queen invited us to a lunch of millet, but Faith politely refused. Finally, the prime minister and preacher spoke and we filed out. Overall, the king was very quiet. I wonder how he acts in college. He goes to Westminster in London.
Before leaving the grounds, we had cookies and sodas, the former which Faith apparently requested that the palace provide. I’m telling you, she’s one powerful woman who knows everybody. You don’t want her as an enemy. It’s nice tagging along and getting perks like this super eventful, surprisingly terrific morning.