In today’s Travel Tuesday, I am going to take you back to Uganda.
Uganda is very special to me, and will always hold a place in my heart. It was a country that forced me into growth, and also shattered my heart and friendships I thought were made of steel.
Where in the world is Gulu?
The capital of Uganda is Kampala, way down at the bottom along the edge of Lake Victoria. To get to Gulu, the most popular option is to take the Post Bus. You ride on a tour bus that delivers the mail, essentially, paying for postal delivery through Uganda. It’s quite brilliant!
I lived in Gulu for a few months, doing a Product Intern fill-in with the lovely Krochet Kids. This internship was such a blessing. The project I came to work with in Kampala was not only going belly-up and not delivering on their promises, but I spent every day falling in love with the beautiful program participants and breaking as I watched how they were treated. I talk about this in my upcoming travel memoirs, Diving For Pearls (Spring 2018) and Couture by Candlelight (Spring 2019), talking about my time in Uganda working with ‘charities’ and ‘fair-trade’ fashion companies.
I originally went to Krochet Kids for just two weeks. My desire was to learn about successful social enterprise and how to take the beautiful program they created and employ those principles with the program I was brought over to help. However, when I started to see that the original program I was helping was nothing like it was presented and the secrets in the underbelly ran deep, I did not want to be involved. Perhaps one day I will share the photos of the day I was unwittingly brought along and presented to someone’s father as a future bride in an effort for him to inherit land for the program – which is also the day I found out the full back story involving the program founder’s marriages, mis-steps, how the organization was actually formed, and true hidden secrets that had I known, I never would have set foot in Uganda.
I returned to Gulu, no, I FLED to Gulu, and spent the rest of my time there. I am beyond grateful that I even had this opportunity – I really don’t know what I would have done except just cancel the trip and fly home.
Gulu was brilliant. I don’t know how much it has developed to date, but in 2011, it was still very much small town. The roads weren’t paved, the city centre was just a few streets of small shops and restaurants, and there was the large traditional market. When I was leaving, the first grocery store was just being built. It was so simple, so focused on just the every day, and so soothing.
My walk to the KKU center took me past a smaller market, down a skinny dirt path, and through a field of violets on my way to cross Juba Road. Every morning, they would have the residue of the night’s rain still rolling around their leaves as they unfurled. The sun would be quickly heating up, and the red dirt roads would be muddy and dying our feet ochre as we traipsed along. It just felt magical as nature and nature alone overwhelmed every single one of your senses.
The first morning rays would always hit this specific field in a brilliant arc. More often than not, I would pause here and just run my hands over the violets. This field was one of the few pieces of beauty in my first trip to Uganda.
On my very last day, I walked extra slow. I took my time going to the field, and as I approached, there she was. She was tending to her flowers, singing a song, and gave us a typical Acholi greeting. We responded and I knew that I just couldn’t pass this field without her photograph. I told her that her flowers were beautiful and asked for a photo.
While many of my photos from my first trip to Uganda bring back painful memories, this one always brings me peace.
Afoyo matek, readers, and wot mabey!
Also published on Medium.