Now that I’ve been in Uganda for the better part of a month, I think I’m finally learning enough to explain what this place is like, in a nutshell. BAP currently operates out of a town in the North called Gulu. I’m hesitant to call it a city, because city it is not, yet calling it a town almost diminishes its life and vibrancy. Upon first glace, it doesn’t look like much (admittedly, I thought this when I spent two days visiting before joining BAP), but the more time you give Gulu, the more Gulu gives to you. Nearly every shop in city center appears to be some variation of a hardware or electronics store, but you’ll be surprised what else you can find if you look closely.
Without the likes of Yelp, the best way to figure things out around here is simply to go for a walk around town. The motorbikes whip by, ladies grill hot maize on the streets, children walk with containers of g-nuts on their heads. There’s something happening in every direction. I was initially concerned about the lack of traffic regulations and the many cars, bikes, and bodas speeding by, but it only takes a week to learn the art of crossing the street.
My favorite place to visit is the market, which reminds me of Diagon Alley (minus the broomsticks and magic shops). The main entry way is through a small opening in the exterior stalls and knowing where to enter makes me feel like I really live here. You’ll know you’ve found the food section of the market by the potent smell of dried fish. Adjacent to the fish stalls are the meat stalls, where the flies abound (I generally avoid this area). You can find most anything in the vegetable stalls if you look hard enough; there are endless rows or tomatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, avocados, bananas, pineapples, passion fruit, watermelon, pumpkin, eggplant and if you look really hard, you can find green beans, cilantro, cauliflower, and broccoli. There are dozens of leafy greens, which I still am learning how to cook.
This past Sunday on my way to the market I was distracted by the sound of singing and clapping coming from a nearby church. Woman wearing brightly colored dresses with puffy sleeves loitered outside as children ran about playing games. I was intrigued and decided to follow the sound of the singing. One of the best parts about Gulu is that wherever you end up, you will be most welcomed. I walked inside the churchyard and was instantly ushered inside. People were singing, men and women danced in the pews, and the air smelled of perspiration. This was the place to be on a Sunday morning! Watching the congregation come alive, I couldn’t help but start clapping to the beat. I’m realizing now that this embodies how I can best describe my experiences in Gulu: often times, I’m not entirely sure what’s going on…when it doubt, see for yourself.