This month, we are thrilled to welcome a new member of the team - Kijana will be interning with the project for the next 4 months, helping on everything from workshop facilitation to impact monitoring and day to day interfacing with local stakeholders. Here are her first impressions of life in Northern Uganda:
Although I had been greatly anticipating my arrival in Gulu for several months, I was constantly reminding myself to stay away from creating a false picture in my mind. It was hard not to be anxious, excited, and nervous, knowing that every minute of my eighteen hour voyage across the North Atlantic would bring me closer and closer to my new African abode. I had so many questions about this foreign land: What will it look like? What will the locals be like? How will I be received? What will my new family be like? What will my work be like?
Our short stay in Kampala showed me a beautiful, busy city- but I was happy to hear that our final destination would be a lot slower, and a lot calmer. In my previous inquiries about Gulu, the typical response was a shrug and a short line about “understanding when you get there.” The truth is: Gulu is an impossible place to describe, but I will try to do it some justice. The city itself is a small grid, with several villages surrounding it. Riding down Acholi Road, you might see local women carrying huge jerry cans of water on their heads, a group of boda-boda motorcycle drivers huddled on each corner, and young children kicking around a football on the side of the road. As you head to Senior Quarters on the other side of town, you begin to see sign after sign for the hundreds of NGO’s which Gulu houses, as well as expatriates and locals alike walking in and out of the popular cafés and restaurants. Although the roads are rocky and uneven, the African dirt is red, rich, and beautiful. The trees are green and the sky is clear blue. While the sun does blaze for hours after midday, the atmosphere is ever welcoming and easygoing. It certainly isn’t an exotic paradise, but it is not a war-torn hell either. There is a strong sense of peace and hope in the dusty air, which makes every interaction that much more fulfilling.
Life here has been an interesting learning experience so far. My host family was immediately welcoming, and we connected almost instantly. They have introduced me to their culture in several ways, including cooking delicious local dishes for me, bringing me to church, and taking me to a traditional Acholi wedding. Working with Insight on the Peace Education Project has also been educative and intriguing. Our week of teacher training workshops were eye opening, and hopefully their success is indicative of what our upcoming work will be like in our two pilot schools. As we head into the first week of the term, I am eager to meet the students we will be working with for the next couple of months, and hopeful that our curriculum will be able to teach them as much as I’m sure they have to teach me.