Thursday, January 11, 2007

Uganda: Gulu as Paris

Roosters crow promptly each morning at 6:54 a.m. I un-entangle myself from the mosquito netting and step barefoot onto the cool concrete of the Kakanyero courtyard. The air is crisp and I dart dripping and shivering from the showers. Sitting at the red-and-white checkered cloth-covered tables on the balcony, eating fried eggs and drinking milk tea, I watch the town come to life.

Gulu town is laid out in the typical British colonial style - a small grid of manageable streets with a few roundabouts. The cool morning air is already starting to burn off by 9 a.m. and the dusty streets are filling with pedestrians carrying goods on their heads, bodas and bicycles, rickety trucks and NGO Land Rovers. Around the corner the market is filling up with goods - flies are descending on the fish, women are peddling avocados, mangos and bananas, and tailors are busying themselves on their foot peddle sewing machines - bright and stiff cotton fabrics fluttering in the shady breeze under the market stall rooftops.

Around midday the sun beats down relentlessly in the clear blue sky and the streets are packed with noisy activity for the remainder of the afternoon. Trucks filled with soldiers or matooke wobble down the road. I spend these hours either drinking a Pilsner at Havana Pub or flipping the pages of a book on the balcony at Kakanyero until the heat begins to dissipate.

The sun, a dusty orange ball, sinks quickly below the horizon, but not before shading the the sky first in lavender and then a creamy grayish hue. Market vendors pack up their wares, women and men alike piling shoes and fabrics into large woven plastic sacks that are hoisted away, either on the back of a bicycle or held high atop the head with one slender arm to balance the load. They begin the long walk home. At twilight the empty market stalls take on the lonely look of a forest in winter - branches that held colorful fabrics now lain bare.

Night falls quickly and an inky, opaque darkness settles in - the appearance of the road as an endless abyss. Potholes are masked in this thick cover and the solitary light of a boda driver quietly passes by. Fireflies dance in a frenzy through the fields surrounding the town. And then, suddenly, all is silent. The metal doors of the shops are latched shut to block out the night. I close my book, walk down the stairs and entangle myself once more in the mosquito net, awaiting the crow of the rooster at dawn.

1 comment:

africaproject said...

Good job! We had volunteers go to Gulu too recently.