After three days in Uganda, a few of the members of my group and I decided to venture out to find the internet café a few blocks from our hotel–we were all experiencing slight facebook withdrawal. So here I am, sitting in the Coffee Hut, sipping some ‘house’ Ugandan coffee and listening to Rihanna’s “Umbrella” on the radio (she seems to be pretty popular here).
These past few days have definitely long, but in a good way. I was lucky enough to have people from my program on both my flight from Boston and my flight from London, so we all were able to navigate Entebbe Airport together. We were met by Dr. William–our Academic Director, Winny–our program assistant, and Morgan–an SIT Uganda alum who is going to be helping us out for the first few weeks of the program.
From the airport, we had about an hour drive to Kampala, the capital city. All of us in the car were pretty quiet, due both to the fact that we had just stepped off an 8 hour overnight flight, and that there were SO many new surroundings to take in through the window. Our driver tuned into a radio station that was playing American 80’s hits, so there was definitely a strange/hilarious clash of cultures going on.
Also, drivers here are crazy. For all intents and purposes, there are no traffic rules. I was sure we were going to side-swipe someone, or that a motorcyclist would get rear-ended within the first 5 minutes of being on the road. However, we managed to make it to our hotel in Kampala (which was on Col. Muammar Gaddafi Road) safely before noon.
We spent the rest of the day getting to know one another, eating some of the local food for lunch and dinner, and going into the city to purchase cell phones. By the time 9 pm rolled around, most of us were struggling to fight off sever jet lag (Uganda is 7 hours ahead of the East Coast, and it’s pretty difficult to get any sleep on planes as I’m sure you all know) so we had an early night.
The next morning, we all loaded onto a private bus to ship off to Gulu, in Northern Uganda. We were told the trip should only take about 4-5 hours, with an hour in the middle to stop for lunch. An hour or two in, we were stopped by some soldiers who were running some sort of checkpoint. They told us that it looked like there was something wrong with our bus, and that it probably wouldn’t make it to Gulu. Our program directors figured that this was merely an attempt from the police to get some money from us. However, a few hours later our bus lurched to an unpleasant halt, and we had to roll it to the side of the road. Luckily, we were in a town (for much of the drive we were not anywhere near one) so we all got off and waited while some of our coordinators went to talk to a mechanic.
It turned out, our bus was non-reparable–or at least not quickly repairable–but we were able to find two taxi buses that were willing to take us the rest of the way. We had to pile all of our luggage on the roofs (several hundred pounds worth) and strap it down with bungee cords. Of course, when we were still about 45 minutes away from Gulu, it started to rain. Fortunately, no one’s luggage was severely effected, and we all made it to the hotel in relatively good shape. We also got to see lots of baboons on the road, and cross the Nile, so I guess that made up for the rain.
This morning, we began orientation and have had the afternoon free to explore the town. A few other people and I walked around Gulu for a bit and made friends with some adorable children–all of whom seem very curious and excited to get to interact with us, and I’m sure the feeling is mutual.
So that brings me here, to the Coffee Hut. We have orientation for the rest of the week, and then we move in with our homestay families on Saturday. Hopefully I’ll be able to update this blog again within a week or so, with even more adventures to report..I also have already started taking pictures (of course) but it is taking too long to upload them here, so I guess you’ll all have to wait a little longer…sorry!