A Travellerspoint blog

Humanitarian Aid in Gulu

Searching for Connections...Finding Some ☺

sunny 29 °C
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I have trouble loading pictures in the time I have with good Internet so they will have to come later...

This morning I was able to take my time getting up as Joseph was picking me up and I told Aludi I had stuggled for good sleep the night before.  I think they only have three or four guests here and the man wearing the most dazzling vest and helped me with my bags ran to be of service to make my omelette. There wasn't any juice but I had eaten so very much the day before that I was happy with just an omelette and 2 cups of Masala Tea.

Since I had learned that no electricity could mean that there'd be no warm water, I asked my new friend how I could get some warm water. He offered to boil some so that I could use the bucket. That sounded much better to me than a cold shower. I got ready and Joseph picked me up at 10.

His job was to take me around so that I might catch a picture of all the NGOs in the town...I had asked Aludi about it in order to have an idea where services were in case we could connect with one which wasn't Christian. I found so very many but we never found the Red Crescent nir the Lions Club...however, I found the Rotary.

I think I must have been down every road in Gulu, even a back road which gave a gorgeous view. I found it interesting that there were some roads which had wonderful sidewalks that were much safer than the side of the road I often saw people walking along which looked so incredibly dangerous. Joseph told me that the sidewalks were built by the Chinese.  Money received from Western countries was used to pay the Chinese because they offered the lowest price. The problem with that, in my mind, was, why wouldn't they make them here? One thing that Uganda has is red dirt which they use to make bricks but Joseph said that the machines the Chinese use to make them produce thousands at a time and Uganda doesn't have the machines...seems to me, there'd be more jobs if the money were invested in the machines and locals did the work...

During our ride, I found Hotel California...
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Another interesting find was the railroad tracks. Apparently, the war prevented their use and the tracks have never been fixed for use again...it seems this could also help the people help themselves...

I arrived back at Caritas by 12 noon and hung out in the office. I was ready for some down time and uploading photos. I was very warm but so was everybody. 😊 Aludi had to wait for a call, from a woman from  an organization which would be providing fellowships to people chosen by a team here so they could have training in Peace and Justice, at 3pm. Since I'd eaten so very much the day before, I refused to take my free ride to a restaurant alone and preferred to wait til Aludi and Father Felix finished chatting with her.

One thing we were finally able to do was get in touch with our CONTACT 2005 friend, Ngoya. Through the course of the conversation, Aludi agreed that we would travel to see him in Kotido on Friday before returning to Kampala at night. I looked at the map of Uganda in his Administrative Assistant's office and couldn't believe my eyes! We would be traveling almost the whole of Eastern Uganda in one day! As well, he had promised to take me to a national park that he said was 2 hours away from Gulu tomorrow!
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Gearing up for a long few days, I responded to our CONTACT 2005 friend, Chrissie, who had requested I come over the weekend and said that Saturday would be absolutely impossible...I would need at least one day of rest. By the end of a few messages back and forth, the next few days' plans were set: Thursday-Murchison Falls National Park, Friday-Kotido and then to a small town further East to meet Ngoya before heading back to Kampala, Saturday-resting in Kampala, Sunday-ride to Fort Portal, Tuesday-return to Kampala, Wednesday-meet with Red Crescent, Plan International and Rose's NGO before...Thursday-flying back to Dubai...I hoped I'd feel rested before starting school again! 😯

I spent my time writing and posting pictures while they chatted but I heard some of the challenges they had. Some things I have learned from the past few days about Aludi was that he had been in South Sudan from 2006-2008 working as part of the peace and reconciliation commission after the war. He represented Caritas at the table and helped provide rebels with needs, like clean water, throughout the process. One of the issues they come across now is that many of the people who work in NGOs in the area have, at some point, worked with Caritas in some form or fashion. Mostly it was because, throughout the war and after, Caritas tended to be one of the only support systems here in Gulu because other organizations couldn't justify the security risk. As a result, when people who have now worked in other agencies but had worked with Caritas many years before, from the outside it looks like there is some sort of Nepotism going on.

I was humbled for sure. Listening to the stories Aludi told me of the days when the curfew to be in one's home was 4pm and the area near the hotel where I had stayed the first night was considered off limits altogether nine years ago...even after I had come to know him through CONTACT 2005. He also talked of the times when the halls of that office tended to be empty more often than not...this whole region is suffering from PTSD in a way that requires so much  more support than he can do with the work he does as a board member to several organizations.

I pray that the training that they hope to send people to the training proves successful.

I had been quiet the entire conversation but while they were saying theur goodbyes, I began to laugh and she asked who it was. I came to say hello and after Aludi explained our connection, she asked if we knew the Karuna Center and Olivia Drier. We laughed as the founder of Karuna Center, Paula, had been our professor and Olivia had been Aludi's advisor for our Graduate Certificate course...and I had promised Olivia an update after I returned from Uganda. ☺ She said that Olivia was right next door so  I asked her to send my love.

If anyone thinks there's a small world on the ground, they can't imagine the SIT/Conflict Transformation world...💜

After they were able to finish the call, we sat about chatting with my namesake Lanyero...but I was beyond ready for eating as it was close to 5pm. We closed up shop , drove a few staff members home and went to a place called The Kitchen. I devoured cassava, peas, mutton in sauce, something that reminds me of sauerkraut, potatoes and some greens of some sort.

We came back in time for a downpour and thistime I left the door open to catch the cool air inside my room...especially since my attempt to keep air coming in during the day was thwarted because the maid closed it. I rested in the cool of the fan and the cooled air from the rain before Aludi picked me up at 8pm to go eat. 

We returned to the Ethiopian restaurant where I simply had soup and he had his meal. I wished to splurge on a Smirnoff vodka but there wasn't any so I went with what was supposedly South African red wine. I guess, hanging out with so very many priests over a few days, it was extremely appropriate that the wine tasted like communion wine. Aludi noted that if I truly wanted it to taste like communion wine, I should put water in it. 😊

From there we went to hang out with some of his friends as he often does. The owner/friend's last name was Caro. In the local language, it is pronounced 'charro' which, of coursehas a completely different eccentric connotation but I mused that his name meant Expensive in Spanish. At the previous place, I noted that an alcoholic beverage had the name of my Ecuadorian ex, Alvaro...
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...so Aludi told me I should order one from Caro, I mean it was only fitting. ☺

He wished to take me out longer but I think the long, hot days (even when I was in an air conditioned car for a couple of hours) was draining this Irish/Polish-blooded woman...so I returned home and was blessed with a full night of electricity so a full night of a fan to provide me a good night's sleep. I wanted to truly enjoy the park the next day.

Posted by Peliroja 22:50 Archived in Uganda Tagged gulu Comments (0)

Love in Any Language

The time to give has presented itself

sunny 33 °C
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It was a bit hard getting up this morning...but I still got ready by 9am as I was asked. However, today being the first day back after a holiday, my pickup ended up being delayed so I could catch up on some writing of the blog.

I was in the middle of the town and watching people gather around the water pump outside of the hotel.  20160329_084526-1.jpg
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While I got ready, I realized that the line of jerry-cans started to grow. I was able to eat my spaghetti breakfast in peace  but also noticed that more and more women and children were gathering out in front of the hotel. 20160329_090650-1.jpg The pickup delay provided me more time to write but I had no idea that it would be so long. Considering the delay to leave for Gulu the day before, I was not stressed. When I returned to the lobby, I noticed the very long line of jerry-cans. Apparently, the electricity was out for the whole of the district...and the hotel was scrambling to get their generator up and running so the pump could function again.
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I snoozed a bit in the heat while waiting on the couch but Joseph finally picked me up by 11 and I was shocked by the first bit of A/C thus far. We arrived at Aludi's office and I was greeted with coffee and chapati.  He then introduced me to every single one of his staff members. One woman gave me her name, "Lanyero" which means 'a joyful person.' ☺
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Once I had met everyone, Aludi took me to St. Jude's Children's Home   which has a section with families with children with disabilities who live there in an area called the called a Consolation Home. Josephine Ogweta is the Deputy Director but she has not been updated on the website yet. Aludi is a board member there.

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We sat in her office and she told me all about the programs that the place has running at the same time. The way they are set up is similar to that of the SOS Childrens Villages worldwide (I went with the church in Hannamdong , Seoul, S. Korea to deliver gifts we'd collected for Christmas in December 2002...so I'm familiar with the set up.) The difference is, St. Jude's has five homes dedicated to "families" with children with disabilities. One mother looks after 5 children with disabilities, some her own. St. Jude's provides training for mothers and a pathway for children with disabilities.

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I was blown away by the work they are doing it was amazing! They had the cleanest homes and classrooms I had seen in a place like this. After I greeted every family and saw some amazing little ones, we finished the tour of the farming equipment and returned to the main office. I could not help but unload all the children's clothes I'd paid overweight fees to bring and my colleagues had donated...especially after seeing those beautiful babies-one gorgeous, happy 4 month old was there because mom passed away and dad was incarcerated with no set date of release.

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We returned to Caritas and, once I was able to do some posting, Aludi had a couple of meetings and we attempted toarrange my visits to Ngoya in Karamoja as well as my return to Fort Portal after 10 years away, we went to lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant at 15:00.  Since Caritas had a generator, the internet was good and I could charge all my gadgets.  From there, we went to his house to switch to the official Caritas car and had a short rest before returning to Caritas.

We went back to have a bit of catch up before Aludi took me to see the seminary where he grew up. http://www.hopeforuganda.org/ I met the Vicar, Head, and we chatted about MUN. We finally left and I checked into the Wallville Cottages near Aludi's home at about 6pm.

Earlier in the day, Aludi had predicted rain but with the heat was so intense all day...but as we arrived at my hotel,  the ran clouds rolled in and we had proper thunder and  lightning. It was a much needed cool down as well as rain for the crops.

At 8pm, he picked me up and we went for "Snacks" at Pier A2 which was a gym, massage, restaurant and dance club. It was quite strange, especially when one man thought it was okay to come into the restaurant with just a towel...

We decided to call it an early night and I was in bed by 10. The electricity went off somewhere after midnight and the fan went off. The rain had not quite cooled off my room so I woke up a few times after the generator turned off and thus, the fan.

Posted by Peliroja 22:28 Archived in Uganda Tagged gulu Comments (0)

Easter Monday

Don't Expect to Get Anywhere On Time. 😊

sunny 28 °C
View CONTACT Uganda 2016 on Peliroja's travel map.

My hotel, Unik Hotel, for 82,000 Ush/night (24.40 USD):
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This morning I awoke to the sound of someone running water...but the sun shined bright and it was very out.  I was the first one to the hotel breakfast and partook in a fried egg that was rolled up which is named Rolex. 😁

I learned this from the other western guy here, Tony from Bristol. He spent the next half hour telling me about his work and experiences here during the past five months...how he helped random people in the streets around the hotel. He has been so inspired to create businesses here so he can employ those he's encountered. At first I think he did it because he didn't realize my personal understanding of some of the situations people here must endure. They were nice anecdotes and it made me happy that someone could do this for people while stating that he truly didn't want anything in return.

I returned to prepare for the trip while waiting for Evalyne to come by. I am very grateful to have met her three children and lear ing about her work with Plan International. As a lawyer working for them, she has helped 300 women, from the Ugandan Program over the past five years, go to court and fight to get their land  back from those who have taken it from them.

If my connection to the Red Crescent doesn't work out with Chrissie, she said she could help me.

Rose and Aludi showed up to pick me up and a small reunion occurred...apparently the two, although from very close to one another in Gulu, haven't seen each other since Aludi and Rose's wedding.  Her littlest one took a strange liking to me so that he wouldn't let go...but we said our goodbyes and I hope to see her when I return to Kampala from Gulu.

We then went to Aludi and Rose's to meet the young twin toddlers while waiting for the work car to be fixed. 20160328_155215-1.jpg Of course, it was supposed to take an hour...but that was three hours ago.  We have had a beautiful rest on the couches with a gorgeous breeze dancing through the house. Eventually, an amazing rain storm came through but Rose and Aludi both missed most of it as they were both resting so soundly.

Now it's 3pm and we're getting ready to eat.

Dinner was delicious even though Madame (as Aludi calls his wife) felt she didn't make something good, the meal lasted me until late at night...I wasnt even hungry when we arrived at 8:30. More on that later.

Earlier in the day, Aludi realized that the car would need repair or it wouldn't  make it to Gulu so they contacted a mechanic who picked up the car in the morning and was to have it done by "mid-day"...unfortunately somewhere around 2:30, the man stopped answering his phone...Aludi became distressed after some rest and we finally left to go retrieve it. When we arrived at the shop and, not only was the car not still "being aligned" (as he'd been saying since 2pm), but neither the car nor the mechanic was there...as we had begun to suspect for the past two hours.

Fortunately, he arrived shortly after we did and the work had been done, and well. We said our goodbyes to Madame Rose and headed on our way. We stopped at a shop and were officially on the road to Gulu by 5:30pm.
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Along the way, I noticed that many of the trucks on the road were not only leaning dangerously to one side but some seemed miraculously to be headed in a straight path while looking like they were driving sideways!  For the most part, nothing that I saw seemed completely shocking to me as most of it was very like many things one can find in Ecuador.  I simply sat back and enjoyed the ride which felt comfortingly familiar. Four and a half hours to Gulu.
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I was humored by one part of the ride...we were stuck behind a truck going slow and I noticed a hand waving from the top of the trailer door. I couldn't see anyone but then I noticed half of a pair of sunglasses in the crack of space between the two ill-closed trailer doors. I was laughing when fate laughed back...a bee had flown in and stung my underarm. Now my secret observer ended up with his own show. I said, "something is biting me" and i reached to shove it away. Apparently, what I thought was an unknown bug was actually the backend of a bee I had split in half. Aludi noticed that it was a bee and he agiley took the stinger out while I pulled out the triple-antibiotics I had considered not putting in such an easy to locate place and put it on. He worried about me, wondering if I would swell up and I assured him there'd be nothing to worry about...then I laughed at the insanity of having gotten all those vaccines and medications when, instead I got something incredibly common-a bee sting-which I'm usually good at avoiding in normal circumstances.

As sun set, I became aware that my roaming data I'd ordered finally became accessible. It blew my mind since I'd tried so hard to use the internet and data the whole time I was in Kampala to nearly no avail. I was able to get onto Facebook and leave some messages for family and friends. In the middle of nowhere in Uganda, I was communicating better than in the city.
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We traveled at an average speed of 130km/h...apparently slower than Aludi is used to but, at night, there were so many people, bikes and motorcycles on the side of the road traveling from long distances that I was constantly was worried we'd hit someone.

On the road, my friend received a steady stream of phone calls. Work, friends in Gulu/Kampala, family and, later, those worried he was still on the road. I hadn't realized just how incredibly important this man was. Just as we got 2km outside of Gulu, we stopped at his friends' gathering. His arrival marked the opening of the "dance floor." I was given way more food than I could possibly eat after I was introduced to about 7 priests who had studied with him in seminary...before he chose to marry instead.

In the middle of a bit of land outside a small house, there was a "DJ booth" and large speakers. Everyone, as well as the priests, danced til late. Between observing this sight and being pulled to come dance, I sat inawe of the depth and breadth of the stars which revealed themselves in the sky and the energy with which this young Downs Syndrome man outdanced every person there. 
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Overwhelmed by exhaustion from the heat, fresh air from the drive up and taking it all in, I tried not to make Aludi feel he had to leave. However, by 11pm, I was checked into Nok International Hotel just inside the town from the party. I was out before midnight.  Aludi said I'd be picked up by 9...it was extremely warm and I was on the 3rd floor without a fan or a way to bring the air inside. I got cool water on my head and had no problem sleeping. ☺

Posted by Peliroja 04:34 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

Happy Easter!

Flying from Dubai to Entebbe

sunny 29 °C
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For my atheist friends, please bear with me as I indulge in my faith for a few moments...

First of all, Happy Easter to those who celebrate. Apologies if I missed sending love for Passover to those who share this holiday. For my pagan friends, please indulge in your chocolate bunnies for me! Just kidding.😁

I got up by 5:30 and was able to make all final preps before I called the taxi. I was blessed with easier traffic since most of the country had emptied out over the weekend.  We arrived at 7:14 and I was at check-in at exactly 2 hours before my flight. Despite having checked-in online, I still had to wait in a long line to check my bags and receive boarding passes...but I was unphased and extremely grateful that they didn't make me pay for the additional 2kgs. Extremely warm in my long sleeve shirt, jeans and gym shoes, I didn't get out of immigration until 8:05. I had just enough time to find some Duty Free perfume for Evalyne and the wives of friends I'd be visiting and get to the gate.

As per usual, my long sleeve shirt and sweatshirt around my waist came in handy just after takeoff. The temperature dropped as per usual and  I cocooned myself with the blanket and sweatshirt on in reverse while the Ugandans on the flight started fidgeting with the air vents and trying to figure out where the cold was coming from. Never enough blankets fo everyone...

Settling in for the 4.5 hour flight, I no longer stressed about my empty pockets when I return to Dubai...I'm praying things go well for the two weeks until next payday. 😜

The good news is, I hear I should be receiving my flight allowance for my summer return sometime soon...so...let's pray it happens before I return.

So, this trip is solely left in the hands of my friends on the ground. My friend, Aludi and his wife will be meeting me at the airport. Apparently, every CONTACT 2005 friend will be in Kampala for the Easter holiday. I know I'm staying at a hotel but I have no idea which one as Aludi has secured it for me.

Tomorrow, we head to Gulu. It will be my first visit.
---after the flight--

So I was all ready with all my paperwork-a letter from Aludi (just in case), my yellow fever exemption certificate, my typhoid and meningitis shots on my yellow card-and the only things I had to present were  my passport and my 100USD! In fact the immigration officer actually asked me when I would come visit him! I told him that I didn't know as it was up to my friend and his wife...maybe next time. 😁 Oh well...better safe then sorryAludi  and Rose were right outside of the airport and I was happy to see them right away. Apparently, he didn't think I'd recognize him because he had gray hair. 😁 After welcoming me to Africa several times, the first order of business was to  get lunch. Aludi had just arrived from Gulu before picking up Rose and getting me.

We found Cabana Cafeteria and I was immediately given matoke. 20160327_150708-1.jpgVery happy. Once we reached the area by where Rose and the kids reside when Aludi is in Gulu, we scoped out Unik Cottages.  I instantly unpacked and organized the children's clothing into ages so that I could leave some in Kampala and take the rest to Gulu.20160327_175636-1.jpg

 I'm currently waiting to go have dinner with the duo. I was told 7:30 but stress was on African Time...so, although it's already 8:30, I'm not stressed...however, I'm beginning to wonder how late the music will play nearby...

--later

I went to the hotel restaurant and said I'd like to order some food so I could take my malaria meds...he said they only had snacks so I asked what they had. "Chicken...fish..." Instantly reminded of the times I'd dine with my Ugandan colleagues in Changchun, food must always have meat...I asked for chicken which came with "chips" so I ordered some. I was asked if I wanted leg or thigh...snacks? When the snacks came out, it was a plate with a full leg of chicken and more fries than I could possibly eat.

Rose, Aludi and I had a beer and  I was privvy to NGO issues that didn't take the day off for Easter Sunday. They chatted away about issues they were both dealing with while we also got in touch with other CONTACT friends.

The loud music was on until the last patron left and I was able to sleep sometime after midnight.

Peace, Love and the Warmth of Family To You All.

 La Peliroja

Posted by Peliroja 23:31 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

Travel Anxiety

Getting bills paid and preparing to go

32 °C

Yesterday was a bit tough. I had spent my entire Friday resting up from such a long two weeks without a break...and giving my body time to absorb the vaccines so I had to spend the whole of Saturday finishing up my preparations. I began with a visit to the bank to be sure my accounts were settled and paid all my bills. Then I picked up USD to take with me for changing to Ugandan Shillings. Finally I went home to pack the donated items and prepare my apt. for my absence. I paid for 5kgs extra baggage online but was sad that I couldn't afford to takeall of the items donated this time around...hopefully next time I'll be better prepared.

Between watching my accounts become smaller and the leftover drained feelings I'd had from working 12 straight days & some nights...exhaustion took over me and I went to nap but remembered I hadn't begun my malaria meds...so I busted a move to Mediclinic so I could pick up my meds for that and see my dermatologist one last time before I headed out.  It's a good thing too, not only for the visit but because I had stopped taking my skin meds the week before-the medications would not have worked well together in my system.

I came home and went back to bed...I saved the last bit of preparations for the AM.

Posted by Peliroja 23:28 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

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