Imagine a rickshaw – the red vinyl padded seat and unmistakable nylon fringe, the jostling ride along congested city streets, jerking and splashing through puddles of old rain and run-off, past busy markets and yelling hawkers, bleating horns and static from a thousand local radio stations.
Mute the sound until all you can hear is the soft, tinkling bell of a line of bicycles. Erase the people – all of them, and the dusty, reddish brown familiar look of the city streets. Fill the horizon back in with an empty blue sky, stretching in all directions and meeting a green horizon, the thin winding thread of the red dirt track. Round mud huts with brown, white and gray geometric designs and thatched rooftops appear in the foreground. An occasional cow (long pointed horns), a solitary goat (it’s bleating replaces the horns). The red vinyl padded seat with the yellow nylon fringe is adhered to the back of an old ten-speed bicycle. The owner welded little handles and pegs to make the ride smoother, but it already feels like you’re floating. He is in front of you and you glance at his t-shirt; his sandaled feet, peddling diligently to Achora school on the outskirts of Apac Town.
The column of bicycle bodas (all 16 Americans and three accompanying Ugandans) turns the corner into the school’s fields and the bells tinkle once more, filling the quiet air like a stream of cold water over smooth rocks. A large acacia tree and the open air classrooms come into view, as well as hundreds of school children in blue-and-white checked shirts, blue shorts and purple dresses – all seated below a large mango tree and patiently awaiting the arrival of the mzungu parade. One little boy kicks the dust and the chickens scatter. Giggling ensues.