Friday, April 18, 2008

Forever and for always

I slept in on Wednesday, waking up only to the sound of Paul's text message at 5:36 am - he was waiting for me with the car outside Kabira Country Club. I stumbled out of bed and realized that I hadn't packed a single thing the night before, blew threw the hotel room throwing things into bags and twenty minutes later we were on the road, with my bad breath and knotty hair. I slept all the way to Kafu and woke up to Paul buying goat muchomo and roasted bananas at a trading center. Ah---breakfast! He only brought one CD, and this time it was a varied playlist: It Must Have Been Love (Roxette), Do Me (PSquare ), Forever and For Always (Shania Twain), Another Day in Paradise (Phil Collins), etc. etc. mixed with local reggae. We made it to Gulu in record time - 5.5 hours. I think he flew over the Luwero bumps (see photo) while I was passed out and drooling in the passenger the diversion at Nakasangola is finally cleared, cutting a half hour detour out of the trip.

Despite Paul's requests for me to rest after checking into Bomah, after dumping out my several bags o' crap, I took a quick shower and hit the ground running. The 36 hours in Gulu were a complete blur - smiling Ugandan faces in smart interview suits, meetings with local organizations, briefing by the UN Security Officer for northern Uganda, shopping for office space. My good friend Howard came to see me on Thursday morning, taking a bus in from Lira. After having lunch at Bambu (waiting 1.5 hours for banana fritters that weren't THAT good), we set off on a ridiculous office space hunt through the wilds of Gulu's outskirts. On a tip from the finance manager at Refugee Law Project, we set off looking for Obia Road - a four bedroom house on a plot adjacent to ACDI/VOCA's food security compound. "It needs renovation, but can be made ready with a fence in two months." After trying unsuccessfully to walk there in the scorching mid-day heat (I'd already taken off my button down shirt and felt lost in the desert, tripping around in my tank top and sweat pouring down my face, hand shielding the sun from my eyes and gazing into the heat waves rising from the earth, hoping to spot a suitable piece of real estate. Just kidding, it wasn't that hot.)...Howard and I found ourselves in front of what had to be the place. I dialed up my contact and listened to the description - just needs some renovation and a fence, four bedrooms...while I stood in front of a never-finished or once-burnt shell of a house with no roof and a full-fledged mini-forest taking root in the living space (see photo). But he was right that there was no fence. After another half hour of searching the country-side for the correct property, we finally found the place, tucked away behind a bamboo fence. If only house-hunting in the US were this adventurous, I might actually be up for buying a home!

The trip to Gulu was a success, including a stop off Thursday evening at the sign shop - a local sign-maker (yes he's the one making the millions of NGO signs littering the streets of Gulu, pointing to-and-fro) painted a One Mango Tree sign for Lucy. It's still being finished, but I managed to snap a couple pictures of the artist and his masterpiece (photos coming soon). Paul and I met Lucy by candlelight in the market to pick up the latest order, and she had everything packed neatly into the red plastic bags - one with London Bridge and the other with African wildlife - with an envelope on top that read "Halle's Mummy and Dad. U.K." - a letter to my parents from Lucy, which tugged at my heart and curiousity, but it's still unopened in my bag for the trip home to Ohio.

After a loooong day of running around, I finally passed out at Bomah and woke up on time, even packing my bags before falling asleep (AND taking a hot shower before bed!). Paul and I got on the road at 6 am, with the Gululian red-fire sunrise blazing on the eastern horizon out my window, palm trees blackened in silhouette. I promptly passed out and drooled. In true road trip style, Paul woke me up at our food stop. We were too early for the lady with the yummy roasted bananas (she was just arriving with the brown bananas in a green plastic tub perched upon her head, and waved a greeting when she saw us), but we spotted a guy making chapattis and both lit up at the thought of a roll-ex for the road. Chapattis are like a greasier version of naan, and a roll-ex is a chapatti rolled with fried egg. We also bought an avocado, sliced and salted, and for the next hour I sat with a smile on my face, mushy green avocado in my left hand, and salty delicious and hot roll-ex in my right, as we sang through full mouths to Shania Twain:

And there ain't no way
I'm lettin' you go now
And there ain't no way
And there ain't no how
I'll never see that day....

'Cause I'm keeping you
Forever and for always
We will be together all of our days
Wanna wake up every
Morning to your sweet face--always

Life is good.

1 comment:

Orangehouse said...

Hi, found you blog today. I am looking forward to reading more about your times in Uganda. I was there for a short time last fall. I was in the middle of nowhere about 2 hours south of Gulu, and also in Kampala. I found Kampala to be one of the most crowded places I have ever been! I would love to go back, but my work is in Honduras for this season.