Itye ningo! A personal note from Uganda

Happy Ugandan Independence Day from Gulu!

I can’t believe I’m already rounding out my first week and a half in Uganda. Since many of you have not been here, I thought I would use this first post to somewhat set the stage of the experience.

It’s the second rainy season of the year. Temperatures are mostly pleasant (upper-80s F during the day, mid-60s F at night) and the rain has been coming once or twice a day. As I started writing this on the verandah of the hotel earlier this week, a doozy of a storm was rolling through. The courtyard flooded from the torrential rain; splash-back misted my computer as the rain overwhelmed the gutters and poured onto the ground below. A bolt of lightning cut the power with a deafening strike, but my laptop prevailed.

The mountain hill.

The mountain hill. The white blob at it’s base is a 2-story secondary school.

I spent the first few days of the week in the capital city of Kampala meeting with our project partners. Between meetings, Program Manager Okumu Boniface played tour guide. And holy Toledo — Kampala is a beast unto itself.

Prior to landing in Uganda, I spent three days in New York City. If you’ve ever been, you know that it’s a wild and magical place where anything can happen, strange sights (and smells) abound, and cab drivers have no rules. Folks, I’m here to tell you that NYC can’t hold a candle to the wonderful chaos of Kampala. Traffic signals and stop signs are rare. Motorcycle taxis (called boda-bodas), which heavily out-number other vehicles, hop the curb to use the dirt sidewalks as a convenient shortcut around “the jam”. Tiny shops line every street and sell everything imaginable. At around sunset, many shops turn into bars and street food vendors appear in droves. The music is always pumping no matter the time of day.

Since the Tillers pick-up was having some trouble and had stayed in Lira, we took a bus on the 5.5 hour journey there from Kampala. The standard-width coach had been fitted with five seats where there would be four, making the ride cozy. We arrived in Lira without issue, albeit minorly damp from the leaky windows and dusty from the door that remained open for most of the trip.

"You'll need to use all 4 wheels." - Martin

“You’ll need to use all 4 wheels.” – Martin

Sometime this week, I expressed my long-standing desire to climb the mountain hill – named as such because the debate over whether it’s a mountain or a hill rages on – that dominates the view from the Innovation Workshop. Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator Brian Jakisa quickly suggested we climb it on Saturday morning. And climb it we did.

Shop Coordinator Omony Martin reached the top like a pro, but Brian and I weren’t so well-conditioned. Regardless, the view from up there was stunning. We could see roads and lush green fields reaching out to the horizon. The Innovation Workshop and the demonstration riplines looked beautiful. It’s difficult to see them in the photo, but you can still get a bird’s eye view of our Workshop setup.

Bird's Eye View of the Workshop

The view to the West. The Innovation Workshop is marked by the red arrow.

For now, I’m off to celebrate 52 years of Ugandan freedom. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little taste of the country. Trust that I’m bursting with project news and anecdotes and can’t wait to share them with you in the next few posts. Until then,

Apwoyo [Thank you]!

Ashley

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