When I planned my trip to Uganda, I knew that it would be an opportunity to see one of my closest friends from grad school and more importantly, it would be a chance to see northern Uganda. While, in general I am a planner, when it comes to researching places before I get there this almost never happens, especially when I am going to visit someone I know, which is 96% of the time. Going to visit Andrew in Gulu was no different.
Luckily on Wednesday last week my videoconference for work was canceled meaning that I would be able to leave for Gulu earlier than planned. Around 11am, Ronald (a somehow distant cousin but playing the role of my guide), headed up the hill to catch a taxi into town. Once we boarded the 12 passenger taxi bus we were on are way. We got off in the center of Kampala amongst the usual hectic overcrowding. Before heading to the “bus station” (I use quotes because that is what one would think of, though this wasn’t your traditional bus station), I requested to buy some food as I knew I had at least a four hour trip ahead of me.
We walked for what seemed like miles in the burning noon time sun. I asked Ronald if he was hot, he said no, but the sweat dripping down the side of his face suggested otherwise. We weaved through the streets of Kampala, finally ending up at a simple restaurant where I was able to order samosas and chapati. After grabbing my snacks we hopped on a boda boda – motorcycle taxi – and headed to the bus.
After a bit more weaving in and out of the winding roads, we found the bus, I purchased my ticket and squeezed my way on. I took my seat next to a lady whose body was only allowing me to use half of my seat. This would be a long ride. We sat on the bus for one hour before it actually pulled out of the station, all the while hawkers were coming on and off and squeezing through the aisle selling everything from freshly fried chicken to workbooks for children’s lessons.
The trip to Gulu took around five hours, mostly because of traffic and construction. While I dozed in and out of sleep during most of the trip, I did watch half of a Nigerian film they were showing and caught a glimpse of Murchison Falls and the daily incredible Ugandan sunset. One thing I observed on the trip north was that the further north we went, the darker the people became. A beautiful dark chocolate people were awaiting me when I got off of the bus.
Andrew met me and we went for drinks at a bar he frequents. The next day I worked in the morning at Sankofa cafe, a great spot with wifi and smoothies, what more does one need? After Andrew finished a half day of work, he picked me up, we ate lunch and began touring the city.
I have always loved black people. I think that dark skinned black people are the standard of beauty. So imagine my giddiness getting to stare at all these beautiful dark skinned black people all day. As we rode around the city I met many of Andrew’s friends and involved some of them in a photography project that I’m working on.
When we went home to change in the evening, I took off my dress and immediately noticed the effects of the sun and why the people in the North were so dark. I spent most of the day in Andrew’s car and somehow the sun was able to do some serious damage where my skin was exposed. While I did not feel a burning sensation, it was clear my skin had been burnt. I had the huge pieces that peeled off the next day to prove it!!
In the evening we had a dinner and lots of drinks. We went to a club that was super crowded for a Thursday night. Some of the guys were actually able to get me dancing. All in all I had a great time and though I could never see myself living there I can understand the appeal.