Gulu Week 1 in REVIEW (the rear view) – March 20-28
March 20 The Friday Market in Kampala
There is a craft market every Friday in Kampala. It is a great place to buy souvenirs but we were just looking this time as we will keep an eye out for things we really want before we start buying. Eileen did get some nice necklaces with beads made out of paper and painted. I want a carved map of Africa with each country outlined but not today. Today is just a break before our big jump up to Gulu.
|Welcome to the Friday Craft Market in Kampala|
Eileen negotiates for colorful beaded necklaces. They are made from paper which is rolled around a needle and then painted and lacquered. It takes a few hours to make a necklace depending on length. She bought hers for 2,000 Ugandan Shillings or about 65 cents each.
These ladies are part of a cooperative. They help each other
sell their products. Lady on right is making a basket. Next to her a lady makes earrings. Two others make beaded necklaces and lady on the left is making a basket.
|Alfred eats plantain while mama sells her necklaces|
|A wood carver works on a wall hanging|
March 21 Kampala to Gulu, a bone jarring thrill ride
When President Chatfield said we would leave for Gulu at 7:30 a.m. what he meant was, “We would leave for Gulu at 7:30 a.m.” We were up late the night before but lucky for us our doorbell rang at 6:30 am and it was Elder Taylor from downstairs who just said, “I’m here to serve you.” Within minutes he with little help from me had our suitcases, our food, our self- reliance materials that Story’s gave us to bring up, etc. By 7:40 we were loaded and headed out.
First challenge---getting out of Kampala!!! Traffic was light by Kampala standards at that hour on a Saturday but the untrained eye would have coward in the back seat. We began weaving our way through all of the bodas, bikes, bodies and taxis to the Bomba Road which takes you through the village of Bomba and straight to Gulu. I was able to follow President Chatfield pretty well through the first roundabout. I had learned to play the game of Kampala traffic pretty well I thought. The second roundabout had a policeman directing traffic so it took longer to get through but we did it safely. Final roundabout again has a policeman managing the traffic and after several minutes we were through it and on our way to Gulu. The traffic began to thin out and we were soon on a nice paved road with just a lot of bodas, bikes and bodies to worry about.Oh, and trucks too.
For the first time I was able to put the car into 4th gear, then 5th, then 6th. We were actually able to make a little more than 100 km (60 mph)/hour for the first time. We zipped along very well for about 3 hours until my gas gage fell below a quarter of a tank and I had not seen a gas station for about an hour. I told Eileen to call President Chatfield and tell him we needed gas.
My mission phone is kind of confusing to use so from the contact list she thought she was calling President C. but a Ugandan with a thick accent answered the phone. She obviously had the wrong number and the poor guy must have thought she was crazy but she asked him to call President Chatfield and ask him to call us since she couldn’t find his number on the phone. A minute later our phone rang and it was President Chatfield. He pulled into a Petrol station a few minutes later and then walked back to tell us they were out of Diesel fuel. Another lesson---don’t leave on a long trip without a full tank. Stations are few and far between and often run out of fuel. But disaster was averted a few KM’s up the road when a Shell station fueled us up and let us use their restroom. That was a relief but the fun part of the trip was over!
A few kilometers more and we left the pavement, or at least most of it, behind. Suddenly we were on bumpy, dusty, red dirt road with potholes as big as a car and deep. At time there were patches of pavement riddled with deep potholes. We were trying to keep our speed up, drive on the left side of the road as we are supposed to while dodging bodas, bodies, bikes and on-coming traffic. In between the potholes were speed bumps the size of Mount McKinley. Even though I was taking them slow the truck bottomed out on several of them.
In between the speed bumps was bridge construction. There are very many small streams in this area and virtually every one of them had a crew working on the bridge, cutting traffic to one lane if you want to call it that since there really were no lanes. At times I followed President Chatfield’s tracks in the dirt. When I saw he had swerved I swerved and then tried to pick the best of the two nasty potholes in front of me.
I dropped way back from the Chatfield’s vehicle because of the dust cloud that trailed him. And every time a vehicle would pass our car would have to pass through a massive dust cloud that was thicker than a London fog. For about 5 seconds you could not see anything in front of you---at all. This is very dangerous in this country because you couldn’t see the person who might be walking just in front of you or the oncoming bus doing 60 mph who was taking his half out of your side of the road. So in addition to bone jarring there was also mental fatigue setting in as both Eileen and I were doing the best we could to endure the increasing pain in our backs and our backsides, just hoping the trip would soon end.
Then suddenly the road got a little smoother and we started to see buildings ahead. Then there was more traffic. Then we began to feel like we were driving into a movie set from an old movie. There were no signs but we figured this must be Gulu. It was hot, dusty and just as it had been described to us. We followed the Chatfield’s through the middle of town to the edge of the opposite side where we turned a corner; stopped in front of a black metal gate that was opened by a guard, and we drove into a very nice compound of 6 small houses. We were directed to the one on the end where I stopped with our jam packed little truck and we were suddenly surrounded by four American and four African Elders in white shirts who had us unloaded and left us alone in our living room surrounded by suitcases, bags of food, boxes of supplies and other things. It was hot. We turned on our fan which sounded like an aircraft engine and tried to process what we had experienced. So this was Gulu? Home, sweet home for the next 18 months? We scarce could take it in that first afternoon.
|Keep the windows up. This is one dusty road!!|
|Crossing the Nile River. You don't look if you're the driver.|
Sunday—March 22 – Church at the Bardege Branch (pronounced Bar-deg-y)
We chose to visit the Bardege Branch this week for no particular reason other than it was closer to our house/cottage/bungalow or whatever you want to call it, and we gave two elders a ride there so we didn’t have to guess where it was. We probably would not have found it. That turned out to be a good choice because the Chatfield’s were there.
As is our nature we immediately started introducing ourselves to people. Their African names are entirely impossible to pronounce but most of their Christian names are very easy and many of them are Biblical names although others are trendy names like Jennifer. One little girl’s name was Happy Hope. There is a lady named Cinderella. We met two sisters named Florence in the same family. Also, the African name isn’t a family name. It is just a name with significance such as “Goes with God.” That is the name that one man has given all his children. But other families have different surnames. Thus everyone in the same family may have a different last name. I think Africa must be a genealogist’s nightmare.
Sister Chatfield is the Mission Historian and after church she had the entire branch membership line up in front of the chapel, in the sunlight, out from under the shade of the awning for a group picture. Of course people wanted to stay in the cool of the shade but many of the people here have such dark skin that unless the sun is shining directly on them all you can see of their features are their eyes and their teeth. Even in sunlight it is best to use a flash if possible. Anyway, she took several pictures and we had her take a few pictures with Eileen’s camera as well.
After the meetings were over we returned home to try to get a few more bags and boxes out of the living room and start to make our house a home. But it was hot, so we also took some time to sit in front of the fan and feel the cool air.
This is the entrance to our church building. Nobody has a car so no need to open the gate.
Monday, March 23 Meeting with President Phillip; Patrick & Jacky’s home; Rainy season starts
We had a brief meeting with President Phillip who is Branch President of Bardege Branch. There are no “Wards” here because there is no Stake in this region which is called a District. The Mission President is the ultimate authority in this part of Uganda (apologies to our non-LDS friends as Mormons have a vocabulary not familiar with most others).
You will never meet a more humble man than President Phillip. He is very tall and soft spoken. His mind is very well organized and though he had no written agenda he spoke with clarity as he told us about the branch and all it’s activities. He was very methodical in his approach to speaking about the branch and is definitely a good leader. He is a medical student in his final year so he has to juggle his responsibilities in the branch with school responsibilities and work at the hospital. He was engaged but his fiancé left him and moved to another city and he is very sad about that. He joined the Church just 3 years ago and was largely influenced by his good friend Patrick who is now Branch President of Gulu Branch.
He spoke with respect about branch members. Most of whom have very little so are money oriented and some come because they see the Church as rich and they look for assistance. He described a lack of commitment from even branch leaders. There are many positions in the branch which are vacant and he practically keeps the auxiliaries running by himself which is not only difficult but draining. He was so relieved to have us here to help. We will do our best.
He asked me to work with the Branch Clerk to help him learn the MLS computer system which can be such an effective management tool. I sat with Patrick, the clerk for about 90 minutes looking at some of the lists available to their leadership. Patrick was just ordained an Elder on Sunday so we printed out his ordination certificate. I tried to impress on him how important the Branch Clerk position is as far as keeping track of critical dates and information like baptisms, marriages, etc. As we were doing this he mentioned that his wife’s sister had passed away over the weekend.
Eileen asked if there were anything we could do and he invited us to his home for her to meet his wife. That was our first experience in a Ugandan home. The house was very small with a large bunk bed, a coffee table, a couch and a couple of straight backed chairs. Their daughter and 3 of her friends were playing on the lower bunk and Jacky was cooking on a charcoal stove just outside the door of the home. There was a small doorway to another part of the house but we couldn’t tell if it led to a bedroom, a bathroom or what. We guessed that this was probably a middle income home because both Patrick and Jacky are high school teachers. He teaches math and chemistry and she teaches English. We will probably be in other homes before long.
This is living room of Patrick and Jacky's two room home. Curtain on left
is entry to second room. Just outside the door on right is a charcoal stove
which every home seems to have. Some are inside the home.
Our place is more like a cottage and we sleep under mosquito netting every night.
Wednesday, March 25 Teaching with the Elders at Mike’s house
I am not sure why but in addition to the Sunday meetings the men of the Branch meet for a Priesthood meeting. After a short lesson President Phillip spoke about the needs of a few members who have been absent from church for at least a month and in his gentle, persuasive manner he committed several people to make visits during this week and gave assignments for next week’s meeting.
Two of the young missionaries, Elder Calhoun and Elder Nota (from Zimbabwe) asked me to go with them to teach Ivan at the home of Mike his brother who is a member. As we entered the home we all took our shoes off, which is the custom here because if you don’t you track the red dust into the house with you and now that it is raining there is always a layer of red clay mud that goes into the house with you.
This house was much larger than Patrick and Jacky’s place but not as well furnished as far as I could tell, but it was hard to know for sure as the two large rooms I could see were lighted with just 1 eight watt bulb in each large room. It was so dark you could not see the expression on Ivan’s face as he was being taught. Combined with the fact that Ugandans speak very softly it was a challenge for me.
We reviewed the 10 commandments from the book of Exodus in the Old Testament; each of us taking a turn at reading in order. Elder Nota loaned me his Bible but the print was so small and the room so dark that even with my glasses I couldn’t read the words. Mike took the bible from me and handed me his smart phone which had the scriptures on it. I had been rescued! Lesson learned---always carry my iPad with me just in case I need to read something.
Kids are well behaved at the market while their parents sell clothes or vegetables or what ever.
According to Gulu District website 64% of people here live on less than $1.50 per day.
According to Gulu District website 64% of people here live on less than $1.50 per day.
Babies always rest peacefully on momma's back.
Friday, March 27 Lunch at an Indian Restaurant
Eileen and I were looking for some things we needed for the house in a part of town with many shops that look like hardware stores, but you never know what you will find inside. We looked in a few but couldn’t find what we needed. We then stepped across the dusty street to a very small Indian Restaurant for lunch. The owner, R. K. proved immediately to be a very talkative fellow, asking us all sorts of questions because he had seen our black name tags. He wanted to know what sort of social assistance programs we offer because most of his customers are not Ugandans, but muzungus (white people) like us who work for the myriad of NGO’s here in Gulu. There must be a couple of hundred trying to do good here. He didn’t seem to comprehend that we are different. We are here to help lift up members of our own faith, provide leadership training as needed and to help people help themselves.
R.K. told us quite a bit of his background. He immigrated to Uganda from India and worked at a job he didn’t like for a few years so he opened his restaurant 6 years ago. He has two children, boy and girl, who he has sent back to India to learn the culture there. He hopes to move back there in about 6 years and he is Hindu.
The only wait person in the place was a Ugandan named Dennis who is Christian. Eileen started asking him questions about himself. He is married and has four young children, the youngest a tiny baby.
The conversation was very pleasant until R.K. started getting on Dennis for having too many children that he couldn’t afford. Dennis tried to explain that he relied on God to help him provide for his family and it was his job to teach and raise the children.
R.K. spoke louder and louder and worked himself into a frenzy. Dennis countered his boss, probably at the peril of his job. Things were definitely getting out of hand as passers bye began to look in as they walked by.
I felt sorry for poor Dennis who was just being berated by R.K. who insisted that when you have children you cannot afford they will take to the streets, become thieves and his daughters prostitutes. I had to try to help so I asked if I could tell a story. R.K. took a breath and paused his tirade.
I told him about my wife being raised in a two room log cabin in the mountains of Idaho that was half the size of the restaurant we were sitting in. I told how they drew water from the creek and cooked on a wood stove and had an outhouse for a bathroom. I told him how there were 6 children in that home and how their parents were hard working, gave their children good training, who worked hard and taught their children to work hard. Then I told him how none of them took to the streets but how the family raised themselves up and how the children have all gone to college and done well for themselves in life, because of the kind of home they grew up in. Then I explained that this is a Christian ideal. That we have faith, work hard, pray and rely on the Lord to help us get by.
I didn’t win R.K. over but it did seem to get Dennis off the hot seat for a while and calm the spirit that had taken over.
In the meantime, Eileen had moved to the back of the restaurant to talk to the only other person in the place---Paul. Who was doing some school work. They talked about what was happening up front and she found out he was a student in Gulu but had a girlfriend and baby in Kampala. He was a little embarrassed for that circumstance but he liked our stress on families and said he would like to know more about the church. So we invited him to come to a social event at the Church that evening. He said he would attend, but we didn’t get our hopes up too much. But lo and behold, about half way through the event, in walked Paul. He exchanged phone numbers with the branch president and said he would come again.
Saturday, March 28 Church cleaning, Family Social & Teaching in Beatrice’s hut
Every week the members clean the churches here the same as in the States. But they start at 8:00 a.m. and how they clean was new to us. The floors are tile and the baseboards are cement. So the cleaning process goes like this.
Step 1—Fill the mop bucket up with soapy water.
Step 2---Wheel the bucket into whatever room you are going to clean.
Step 3---Put all furniture in the room on one side nearest the doorway next to the wall.
Step 4---Pour half the soapy water onto the floor on the side of the room that is open.
Step 4a-Watch the clean soapy water turn red as it wets the dust and clay on the tiles.
Step 5---Take a broom and spread the water out and scrub it hard to get up all the clay.
Step 6---A second person takes a floor squeegee and pushes the now red water to opposite side of the room toward the doorway.
Step 7---Move the furniture now to the cleaned side of the room and repeat steps 1 through 5.
Step 8---With the squeegee push the red soapy water out into the hallway and down the hall toward the front door of the building.
Step 9---Push the water out the front door of the building onto the tiled front porch.
Step 10-Go back over the cleaned floor with a dry mop or bath towel to get up any excess water.
Step 11-Replace the furniture to its original position.
Step 12-Repeat this process in every room of the building until every room has been cleaned.
Step 13-Use the dirty water from the inside rooms to clean the porch tiles, Using the squeegee to push the water to the ground in front of the building.
Step 14-Lock the door and go home because the first person who enters the building with shoes on will track the dirt right back into the building.
Family Social at 5:00 pm
In the afternoon Elder Calhoun called to ask if we knew about the family social today at 5:00. We didn’t because it wasn’t announced on Sunday but we said we would be there. We arrived at the church late and there were missionaries giving a lesson in the primary area but nobody else. We weren’t sure what was going on. Elder Calhoun told us Brother Patrick was thinking about cancelling the social because nobody was there and it was going to rain. Because the vast majority of people have to walk everywhere or at best ride a bicycle, people don’t come out in the rainy season as much.
After a few moments we all went into a classroom. There were four young Elders (missionaries) there, Eileen and I, Brother Patrick and the young couple the missionaries were teaching when we arrived. The husband’s name is Robinson and the wife is Cici. They also had their little 1 ½ year old son with them. We all were given a manual for the Marriage & Family Relations class. After a few words Brother Patrick tried to end the meeting discreetly but Eileen piped up and said, “Well as long as we are all here, why don’t we just review the Proclamation on the Family?” which is the first page of the book. So for about a half hour we just took turns reading and discussing the Proclamation. Great insights were offered and it was a very nice meeting.
Cici smiles after family social as her baby sleeps.
It started raining after the meeting as we made our way with Elders Calhoun and Nota to the home of Sister Beatrice. The sun had also gone down and in this country there are no streetlights, outside lights of homes, traffic lights, store signs or any other light sources. It is totally dark at night. So we drove there in the dark. Shortly we came to a cluster of round huts with thatched roofs where so many people live. The sides of the hut are made of mud and straw and have no windows, just a door. The floor is dirt and there is no electricity, kitchen, running water or bathroom. But they are surprisingly habitable. The walled circle can be any size but I would say Beatrice’s home was maybe 12-15 feet in diameter. There was a center wall that divided the house into a living room and what we assumed was a sleeping area.
To get to the hut we crossed a ditch on two wooden planks and then follow a muddy trail to the door of the hut. We had to duck our heads as we stepped inside. There was no cheery porch light to greet us and the home was illuminated by a single kerosene candle on a small table. The floor was carpeted to our surprise and there was a love seat that the Elders sat on. Eileen sat on a straight back office type chair and my seat seemed like a handmade wooden chair. Beatrice was very happy to see us, especially Eileen who she felt so close to just from Sunday’s meetings and also she had come to help clean the building that morning because she was afraid Eileen would be there alone. Beatrice told us the house had been built for her by members of Rotary International after her husband died 4 years ago.
Elder Calhoun gave a message from the Book of Mormon. Beatrice knelt on the floor and her son Jimmy sat in another chair. He laid the B of M on the floor in front of her and read the passage with the light of his cell phone. Then we talked with Jimmy for a few minutes because he will become a Teacher on Sunday and they gave him a white shirt and tie so he could perform his duties.
It was raining fairly hard as we left and followed the muddy path back across the two planks and another 50 yards or so to our truck and home for the night.
We went exploring, stopping here and there to visit with folks. We saw this lady several
times as she pushed and rode her bike along Kitgum Road.
We went exploring, stopping here and there to visit with folks. We saw this lady several
times as she pushed and rode her bike along Kitgum Road.
Many people live in round huts like these. Big ones are about 15 feet in diameter and are subdivided in the middle with the front being the living room and back the sleeping areas. There is no running water or electricity and they use an outhouse. Walls are mud and a thatch roof covers a framework of poles. There are no windows but there is adequate light during the day. They use keroseene candles for light at night or a flashlight. The living room is decorated with posters or pictures that can conform to the curved wall. The floor may be covered with carpeting or something that looks like linoleum. Shoes are ALWAYS left outside so red dirt and mud is not tracked in. A tiny charcoal stove may be either just inside the door or just outside the door but under the thatch for cooking. During rainy season they put buckets and containers outside to catch rainwater for washing. Some people build their own hut if they have a spot of land, but here in town most of them are rental properties. We were afraid to ask how much the rent is.