My group went to Gulu in northern Uganda the first weekend of October (1-3).
For some pretty decent background to this area check out:
Also, to see the website of one of the NGOs we visited check out:
Since first coming to Uganda, I had hoped for the opportunity to travel to Gulu. It finally came a few weeks into the semester, after my coordinator Rachel secured my group’s travel plans there.
We left midday on a Friday, riding in a coaster (bus) for the long way north. The road was long and unfamiliar. The terrain changed gradually as we passed Kampala- the land became flat and dotted with large termite hills. Slowly thatched huts became more and more common. The area also became less and less developed and for many stretches we simply drove through beautiful country. The blue sky was clear and the clouds shone with light in a way that dazzled the eyes.
We stopped about halfway at a gas station for restroom breaks and Pina Colada juice for me. Sleep, conversation, and music was enjoyed as we drove.
Our driver slowed to point out the approaching Nile River. To the right we could see the rapids curving next to the highway. Rachel added that there would be a Ugandan army garrison at the bridge and we were not to take photos or they might shoot. We crossed the bridge and I secretly snapped photos- the view was intense and beautiful (so call me foolish).
The sun made its descent as we entered the township area of Gulu. We drove toward Child Voice International (an organization that helps women overcome the effects of the war they experienced to live self-sufficient lives). The coaster drove out of Gulu town and into the bush. The sky was very dark, and in the distance lightning streaked the sky, momentarily giving light to the surroundings. The effects of this were very surreal. It was easy to let your mind wander and concoct an image of rebel soldiers trekking through the woods near the road.
At CVI, we received a warm welcome and were quickly shown to our rooms. The rooms were actually huts-very much like the ones we had seen along the road on our way there. Jamie and I entered our simple hut and laughed at how we would spend the night-two hammocks hung from the walls each with its own mosquito net over it. There were no lights, so I quickly dug out my flashlight (torch) to navigate for the night.
Dinner was chapatti, eggplant, beans and rice-really delicious because it was prepared a bit different in the north.
We met the director, a Ugandan man named Joseph and the intern coordinator, Christine (who is a former USP student). Then, the women came out and sang to us, welcoming us and introducing themselves.
The rain began when we arrived and stayed constant through the night. Christine sent us off to bed quickly but first we received a “hammock sleeping lesson” from an intern-mainly tips on how not to flip during the night.
We visited the latrines, which had no doors or a roof (just metal sheets as walls) and a concrete hole that we tried to make out in the dark with the torches. Because of their crude construction they provided an amazing opportunity to watch the stars, so I multi-tasked.
Then, Jamie and I tucked ourselves in with our blankets under and over us because of tips we received about the cold. It was refreshing compared to Mukono, but still I woke up a few times to shift positions and better cover myself to keep warm.
A rooster started crowing around 4 or 5, and I finally decided to heed his call when the sun emerged around 7 or so. The group ate rolls from the bakers of CVI (the women trained as bakers) with eggs and tea.
Christine and Joseph then taught about CVI and gave helpful info about the war. We took a tour and met the girls and children. Our time here was so brief (I would have loved to stay and talk more) – we learned for a bit and then prepared to leave.