It’s my favorite -#TravelTuesday!
Today I’m taking you for a morning walk in Uganda, the Pearl of Africa.
The late fall of 2011, I moved to Gulu, Uganda to do a brief production internship with Krochet Kids. If you don’t know Krochet Kids, they are a fantastic organization started by three Californian boys. Basic premise: teach women to crochet and sell what they make while providing them with economic, health, and empowerment opportunities. While I’m pretty outspoken about global and social economic projects, charity, and development projects now, I still adore the work that KKU does, and the impact they’ve had on the post-Kony Acholi people of northern Uganda.
While I believe that many social economic projects exist to play on the intrinsic altruism of a select population (let’s face it, these ‘goods’ are rarely for sale in specific locations or low market stores), and the overall impact on a population is more damaging than beneficial (do NOT get me started on TOMS), KKU handled their approach differently and went towards a more community building, well-rounded, family oriented approach with strong local leadership. This is one of the few programs where I believe participants won’t be left high and dry should KKU ever come to an end.
*steps off soapbox*
So we lived in a huge house, four bedrooms, two living rooms, three or four bathrooms, multiple balconies, and a HUGE yard. I mean, HUGE yard. I learned how to drive a motorcycle in the yard, we had a guard banda, not a shack but an entire banda, a massive tree, a garden, and more that I’m probably leaving out. This house was so large that my room was actually the master bedroom’s closet. Yes, I slept in the closet quite comfortably with a bed frame and my clothes. Dare I say that closet may have even been bigger than our current German apartment?
We were right smack dab in the middle of traditional mud and brick bandas, and I loved waking in the morning to the fires being started to cook, the long plumes of smoke gently twisting out of the straw roofs into the sky, and the kids getting hyped up to go to school.
This group of girls would stop by every morning and yell, “Muzungu!” Muzungu means white person, and it’s basically what you hear all day, every day. You can buy the shirt, even. As long as we weren’t having a torrential downpour, I’d pop out of the gates and walk behind them as they babbled along and played games, threw stones, danced, and waved at me. My Acholi was extremely limited to a few key phrases like good morning (awat mabay), thank you (afoyo matek), etc.
These girls made me smile every single morning. I loved their oversized hand me down uniforms, their black shoes, and most of all, their smiles.
Gulu will always be one of my favorite places, and I absolutely loved living there for that summer. I really hope to get back some day. Unfortunately, my next nine trips to Uganda kept me in the south, but I think of that little city, those deep red dirt roads, the wild foliage that was almost the last frontier before South Sudan’s deserts, and all the cheeky little faces that made our days so much more fun.
Also published on Medium.