I have arrived and settled in Uganda, the Pearl of Africa! And what a welcome. I do not believe that I have ever met as kind, open, and welcoming a people before. Everyone is very eager to chat and help if needed.
After a long but comfortable journey with Qatar Airways (Copenhagen – Doha – Entebbe), my host, Paul (the brother of my classmate and friend, Peter) picked me up at the airport. I spent the first 3 days in his home in Seeta village outside of Kampala, being welcomed by his loving family and housemates. The connection to the family and community is very important and I felt honored to be welcomed and addressed as Auntie or Sister.
On Sunday, I met my contact, Mr. Godfrey Canwat (the Executive Director of Hope and Peace for Humanity), and my two Swedish roomies, Hedvig and Shima, at the bus station in Kampala and we set out for the 6 hours bus journey. Our house in Gulu is very central. It is just a two-minute walk from the office of Hope and Peace for Humanity and less than 5 minutes from Gulu Main Market. At the market, you can get everything! The fresh, gigantic, and tasty avocados are my favorite. And they come at a price of less than 2 SEK. In the house, we also live with the French volunteer, Aude, and (at times) Mary, who is the daughter of the landlady.
Gulu is often described as the “Capital of the North.” The district of Gulu was among those most affected by the war (1986-2010). A conflict that has complex roots and continues to impact the population. Sunday, the 15th of April, was the Good Deeds Day – a day to do good for and with the communities. As Sunday is a day of rest in Uganda, Hope and Peace for Humanity and their partners invited us to celebrate it, Monday the 16th. We went to Atyang village where we did different good deeds with community members including cleaning the public toilets, planting trees, slashing (cutting the grass using traditional slashers/knives), giving kits with mosquito nets to expecting mothers and much more. The Good Deeds Day is a day where individuals do something good, large or small, “to improve the lives of others and positively change the world.” While this is a global annual tradition, I aspire to, and encourage others to, try and do good deeds every day.
For now, I am enjoying the hospitality of the locals in Gulu, getting used to the “Ugandan” time, enjoying the local cuisine (Matooke, Posho, Kalo, and Cassava), and waiting impatiently for the mango season. We have our very own tree in the garden! On a last note, and to much amusement for the Ugandans, I managed to get sunburned on Monday. Lesson learned – my sensitive skin is now protected even in the cloudy, rainy weather.
I am looking forward to the next two months in a place where I already begin to feel at home.