Gulu.....it almost felt like going home. Upon arriving I got that same feeling I get when I leave the hustle and bustle of Raleigh and pull into the driveway in Elon and see my peaceful backyard and quiet street. Gulu looked right out of my imagination. We walked a long dirt road, past numerous NGO's, and arrived at a little clearing with a long rectangle house surrounded by trees, bushes, and round thatched roof huts. We were greeted by the sweet and always smiling 19 year old Jackie. She might be one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. Then we got to meet "the" Jaja [grandmother]. Probably the most precious old women I have ever met. The lines on her face told her story. We went on a walk around Gulu and got to witness 10 year old girls carrying full jerry cans of water on their HEADS! I can barely carry a full one 10 feet! I also got to try my first fresh sugar cane. You just rip it off with your teeth, suck the sugar out, and spit it out on the ground. When we got home we spent time with the wonderful children outside singing songs and trying to make them laugh. We even met a few little babies who had never even seen a white person before and they were PETRIFIED of us! The first night Jackie made us a delicious meal of potatoes with onions and tomatoes, meat, and cabbage [a staple meal]. Cooking with one "burner" (hole that has charcoal) takes a very long time! We all used the chance to lay in the yard talking and looking at the GORGEOUS stars. We saw like 5 shooting stars! Then six of us slept in one little bedroom. 2 on the bed and 4 of us on the floor. It was pretty hysterical.
Tuesday: We slept in a little, had breakfast in the yard, and then walked through the hut neighborhood to town. The organization, Invisible Children, has their headquarters in Gulu. They have done so much to raise awareness about the 20 year war in Northern Uganda and Joseph Kony and the thousands of child soldiers that he abducted and became invisible. We wanted to visit the headquarters and usually an intern will give you a little talk and take you on a tour of the offices. When we got there we walked into an office and a very cheery looking woman greeted us. Her name was Jolly and she is pretty much the head of the organization. We were stunned that she would see us! She was herself abducted, has spoken with Joseph Kony on the phone, and regularly deals with high ranking officials. It was amazing to hear her stories. She told us that the biggest issue right now in Northern Uganda is that the people who have been released from the IDP camps have no homes to go back to because they have been burned by the rebels and they have no money to rebuild. Many of the relief organizations have pulled out because the war is no longer going on. She also informed us that Kony and his armies have moved to the Congo and are gaining strength by abducting more children. They will send a group of child soldiers ahead of the other troops and when they are attacked by national troops they do not know they are attacking children before it is too late. The biggest fear in northern Uganda right now is that if a conflict breaks out in southern Sudan Kony will have the opportunity to cross the border again into Uganda. While the people of Gulu are slowly beginning to feel normalcy return to their lives, the lines on their faces tell the stories of the years past.
Highlights and funny moments from the trip:
-having to use the dreaded squatty potty for 3 days
-showering in the middle of the yard in a bucket in complete darkness
-attempting to eat a mountain of posho (starchy food) with literally a peanut butter/bitter greens/fish slime sauce... oh it was awful
-watching Jackie perform a traditional courtship dance with Felix
- seeing Jackie's face light up when we presented her with gifts to say thank you for her hospitality
- seeing the children peek out from behind the bushes
- having a going away meal with the Jaja
- surviving literally 427 consecutive speed bumps
- eating goat on a stick that we bought through the window of the bus
- finally arriving home!
We have 2 days of missions left this week and then a weekend filled with raft markets, ethopian food, and dinner with an american family in Kampala! I miss everyone and I can't believe it is already the end of October! I am definitely missing fall though. It is HOT here on the equator! Love and a blessed day to all!