Northern Uganda

This started as the on-line journal of Africa Anonymous while she was an Graduate Fellow researching and working in Northern Uganda. You gotta be good. You gotta be strong. You gotta be 2,000 places at once.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Lazing in Lira

Yes, a Lira weekend for me. It’s strangely quiet and I am relishing a few moments to myself. Still stranded in the hotel – we were officially supposed to move into the guesthouse on August 1. I foresee spending the remainder of my contract hotel-bound. However, now that my colleague is on two-week leave, I have been upgraded to a finer room where I do not have to bathe over my toilet. Nice. I finally opened the beloved box of cereal I was saving for the guesthouse, and just this evening enjoyed the finest bowl of cornflakes with my mzungu milk (AKA lowfat), carried from Kampala. Best dinner I’ve had in awhile. I also find myself taking satisfaction in washing my own clothes in the little basin and any other mundane chores I can – it’s tiresome having others constantly looking after me. It seems to pain office staff that I insist on boiling my own water to make my coffee, carry my own belongings, or even use my own two feet to walk three blocks to a meeting.

Long working days and early evening rain storms have put a damper on my running, but on Saturday I finally got out, traveling the usual path, anticipating a reunion with my little friends. For the very first time, I had an awkward moment along the way as I saw a Ugandan jogger coming at me – I was in shock, not quite knowing how to respond! This is my first time seeing a Ugandan, in full gear, jogging for the sake of jogging. My favorite cat call today came from a man wanting to show his gratitude: “Thank you for exercising.” Also of note, a cyclist zoomed past me, looking back at me eagerly. When he turned forward again, I was in near hysterics as the back of his shirt said “Up Yours!” I would infer that he didn’t quite know what he was advertising on his back. And then there they were: my 12 or so girl groupees, and a few shy boys who linger behind. After hopping and skipping around, we sat under some shade for awhile. I tried to probe them on school and their lives, but they seemed to be preoccupied with trying to scare me into thinking some sticks were snakes. I played along for the laugh. What I did learn is that their daily lives include fetching water, helping with the cooking, washing the dishes, helping with the other kids. When I asked what they like better, washing dishes or playing, I was told washing dishes. I took advantage for some Luo language training and I’ve at least doubled my vocabulary. The kids kept touching my legs, and brave Fina tried pinching me a few times. I warned them that they might turn white if they keep touching me J Is it any wonder that this is the best part of living in Lira?

Otherwise, what can I say? I continue to work, work, work, trying to find my way through. It has been very nice to be back in Lira after my last trip to Kampala. One staff told me that she didn’t realize that she liked me until I wasn’t there. I think that is a compliment? Another young staff called me and sent eager text messages (and recall that Ugandans are quite frugal with airtime), telling me that she likes and loves me a lot. Won’t let that go to my head, especially as she probably wouldn’t feel that way if she were working on my project. Oh, Lira!

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