Ok, so this post is going to touch on the four corners of Uganda, which I think is a very very nice way to finish. When I look at a map and understand how extensively I travelled during the past three months, it's kinda mind-blowing (and really COOL!). Of course, Uganda and Canada are very different in size, but I don't think I've covered nearly as much ground in Canada as I have in Uganda. And yet, my family continually said and is still saying that I didn't get to see enough of Uganda. Well - I guess I'll just have to go back right? Hmmmm
North, South, East, West: Gulu, Kampala, Tororo, Mbarara….ready? GO.
I promised a post on Gulu and people have been asking about a post on Gulu, so here is a post on Gulu k?
My friend Lindsay Sample, also from Queen's University, was on exchange in S. Africa for winter term and had told me. told me. told me. That she was going to try. try. try to make her way up to Uganda. Talking back in April about this, before I had even booked my ticket sounded really cool, but so far from reality, so a bit hard to believe. So when this crazy adventure actually happened and we found ourselves on a bus to Gulu at 8:30am with instructions to meeta beautiful Ugandan woman named Rose once we reached, I knew this was to be an adventure, not to forget. And was it ever. We went to work with a newly emerged NGO called "Village of Hope Uganda" which you should all google, just to give yourself so context. My entire ENTIRE family was bit apprehensive about me going to Gulu because it has only just recently reached the end of a 23 year war. My mom still refers to it as a war conflict zone, even though it isn't, but my supervisor was coincidently out of office for the entire week as well, and I was refused to let such an opportunity pass me by when my supervisor wasn't even going to be around. The week is a mess of funniness and seriousness as well. Lindsay and I thought we were going to do some serious hard work, digging, hoeing, and building on this infamous "land" that everyone kept talking about. "This is going to be the most work I do ALL summer, so I'm going to work SO HARD" I kept saying. But, the "perks" of travelling alongside the co-founder herself (Cindy Cunningham; a muzungu - ie. white person) is that we were short of expected to even lift a finger. We spent days moving from market to market, looking at fabrics, eating at restaurants and going to internet cafes to check our e-mail. I'm still trying to figure out if that was normal. We did spend one day in the field using machetes and hoes, but that one day was actually just a little over one hour, and although Lindsay and I were ready for round 2, the rest of our crew opted for the sleep in, and we were made to follow suite. The rest of our time was spent with the children - about 20 of them. All orphans as a result of the raging war as brought on by this crazy many named Joseph Kony. The children have stories that when I think of put shivers down my spine and some have physical markings that are a constant reminder of the horror: a lopsided eye, a bullet wound that if one more inch to the left would have left her dead, and psychological trauma that no doctor seems able to properly diagnose. They know what it means to suffer and they know that because they have survived what they went through that they will suffer no more. The children work so hard, and sing and dance with all their hearts; they praise God and offer up everything they have to Him. When I was with them, I would sneakily open my eyes and watch them pray; they have faith in God like I've never seen - it's incredible. But these children - these children - are a living example of the hope that we should all aspire for.
ok, so this where I was residing right and basically the bulk of my blog throughout my time in Uganda? See post one for an overview of the lifestyle and any other posts for more. Key points: Busy busy busy. congested, DUSTY. Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiild! I stayed in the house where my mother grew up - that is Kasubi and it's filled with people who make me laugh til my sides hurt and I'm coughing, tears are streaming down my face and I can't breathe. There are countless countless stories that could be told but this is one of my favourites:
So in Uganda, it's common to have housemaids/houseboys. It's kind of awkward because they kind of wait on you - they could your meals, clean the house for you, you can send them to buy things for you, if you're too damn lazy to do it yourself. When the come, they come with stories. Most come to work hoping to make money to support their families or go back to schoolor some of them don't have parents to go back to. Most of them are young - my age or younger - and sometimes I take a moment and stare at them, thinking that if things had turned out different for them, we'd probably be friends - or how I might be in their position washing their clothes….. But one thing I notice about my fam - we have a horrible curse with maids - we just can't seem to keep them I'd have to go back through my journal, but I think during my three month stay we went through about 6 different maids - that my friends is not entirely normal, but neither is my family, so I'm really not surprised….
So we had this one boy, Simon - he must have been about mmmmm 14? 15? I think he came on a Sunday. He seemed like a keeper, hard working; didn't seem to be any trouble. So I was surprised to come home from work on Thursday of that week to find out Simon was leaving. Now wait a second? Whyyyyyyy? Hmmm. Seems Simon is a witch doctor. No joke. Real life. His dad back in the village had gotten in contact with him and told me he needed to return because he had customers waiting for him. BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Ok, no exactly something to laugh about cuz it could come back to hit you in the back, but it's stil funny and my family decided roooolllled with it. My cousin Patrick, friend Mugerwa and Uncle Ben gave me and my Jaja quite a show.
"soooooooooooooooooo….do you think he could put my penis on my forehead??!??!?"
"yaaaaaaaaaaa, totally. Why not?- he's a witch doctor"
"NO WAY - that's impossible; you would have to reconfigure your whole entire body; your organs and everything would have to completely moved around - you can't just put the penis on your head - how would you PEE?!?!?!"
"ya...and what if it starts to SLIP off your forehead!??!?!?
This was my lunch time entertainment for the day; between bites, I was trying not to choke, while wiping tears from my eyes and my Jaja was trying to serious as well, but it just was not happening…I wish Simon all the best and pray he doesn't seek vengeance against my family for their crazy crazy antics….
I travelled 4 hours east in a matutu (taxi that holds "14" passengers) squished way too tight in between 3 men to Tororo to visit my super fly cousin Dr. James, who I prefer to call Jimmy. I'd always heard about Jimmy while back in Canada - he's going to medical school in Sweden, he graduated top of his class, he got a job at Nsambya Hospital. I think he's probably a bit deal, but he's very down to earth and just so damn kind. He just recently got transferred to Tororo to work; children and their mothers who have HIV/AIDS and malaria which is seriously common out there. It's part of small research project being carried out by some Americans; clients come and receive treatment free of charge the project benefits by being able to track how they response to the drugs they are given, while also helping them of course. It was a very different pace from TASO - much. much. slower. And it was so nice. I learnt more because any question I had, I asked and was given an answer and then some; it felt nice to not feel like a burden. It's so much better to take on a smaller, manageable chuck and know you've done a good job, rather than take on more and find yourself in over your head. It also just allows everyone to do their job properly, give clients the time and attention they need & not feel overwhelmed.
Because of this, time also allowed for us to climb the infamous Tororo ROCK! Unlike any other place I visited in Uganda, Tororo is FLAT, but randomly in the middle of it all is the friggin' tall ROCK that can be seen anywhere across the town Google tells me it's ????? high. So on Sunday morning at around 8:30am we climbed the thing, which was a really good challenge. Once you reach the top, you can see a lot a lot of Tororo - things like a golf course, town square and the border to Kenya which is only 10kms away. It's said the Eiffel Tower is to Paris as the magnificent Tororo Rock is to Tororo district.
My cousin Jimmy is really enjoying Tororo; it's a nice change from the hectic busyiness of Kampala. I came up with an analogy which might be a bit exclusive if you don't go to Queen's, but I still think others will be able to follow.
Tororo (and Gulu in fact) is like Kingston in the summer, to be more specific the student ghetto in the summer. Quiet. There are people around, you see a few, here…there…and over there, but it's not the busy busy herds of students running from the JDUC (student centre) to Stauffer (the library) which I liken to that of Kampala. In Kampala, I hold all my possessions like it's my job because as I'm walking through a place like the taxi park I have to make myself small and squeeze between cars and people and try not to get hit or fall into a trench - whoops!Tororo on the other hand is wiiiiiide open. I could walk in the middle of the road, with my camera slung over my shoulder (look mom, no hands!).I would constantly fumble openly with my wallet looking for change, with my head down, not having to worry too much about being hit by oncoming traffic.
I arrived Saturday and was suppose to leave the next day, but about 30 minutes into my arrival I immediately decided I was going to stay an extra day, and surprise surprise, my supervisor didn't seem to notice/care.
So this trip was ne my last trips before the chaos that was packing, shopping and sayin goodbye started. At first it was only me that was going, then my cousin Aretha for company. Then my 3 other cousins were dismissed early from school (classes ended; they weren't bad), so they were included in the travels. Family friend Michael and Uncle Ben also decided they needed to come and my cousin Patrick who almost never goes anywhere at the last minute said he was coming as well. So 8 crazy wackos stuffed into a car - 4 girls in the middle, 3 boys in the back/trunk and our fearless leader Uncle Ben in the front, with a driver begun the journey to Mbarara. On the way to Mbarara we stopped at the Equator which was a big things on my "to do", so out we got and took pictures - no duh. A line runs diagonal across the street and two big circle structures with the world "UGANDA - EQUATOR" across the top. I knew that's what was going to be, but it's hilarious that we could all get so hyped up about it. It was a good 15 -20 minutes pit stop taking pictures. The girls trying to look cool, the boys being silly and swinging from whatever they could get their hands on. Continuing on, we tried to find the president's house, but got distracted when we saw a herd of….ZEBRAS (AHHHH - MY FAVOURITE ANIMAL, shouts my cousin Natasha) and out we get. I take one picture and my cousin Patrick asks "are you done?" ya. I say. Ok. Sweet. And he proceeds to run full force after the herd. I tried so hard to take a picture, but I was laughing too hard, literally heaved over that all I got was his feet. Nonetheless, it's one my favourite pictures!
Are we there yet? Noooooooooo. Not yet. But we might as well be. We got to Mbarara in good time, found a hotel to stay in and made plans for the evening. The boys had been drinking pretty consistently since we left while the girls changed their nail polish colour at least 3 times. We went to a club called Vision Empire and you say you went to Mbarara and went to club, everyone knows the club because. hmm. I guess there is only one? My cousin Patrick (who ran after the zebras) was a gong show, talking in high-pitched voices and disputing anything anyone said. My cousin Aretha who vowed never take alcohol again consumed 3 bottles of gin with me - straight; no chaser. Obvi the boze went to both our heads: Aretha threw up; I tried to comfort and nurture, but instead got dramatic emotional, crying, upset at the thought of leaving Uganda so sonn. All that aside, we danced until 4 in the morning, collapsed into bed, were up for breakfast by 9am and on the road by 10.
Did we go all the way to Mbarara just to go to club?
The end J