Sunday, January 16, 2011

Second Trip to Karamoja

Building construction supports.
Fourteen hours. That’s how long it takes to get to Matany in Karamoja via bus. Our last drive was shorter because we had rented our own vehicle. Gabriel, Lauren, and I left the house at a pitch black 4:00 a.m. to reach the bus station where Henry was waiting. We boarded the bus at 4:30 a.m. and tried to choose the optimal seats – front section (to minimize road bumps), window (to maximize air movement), right or the left (to stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day). I believe these seats had not been cleaned for the entire life of the bus; however, it doesn’t take much to look a mess given the dust along the trail. Again I was disappointed to find my new tan wash down the drain.

The bus made regular stops along the way to allow passengers to purchase food or other trinkets from the many vendors who swarm the bus. Or perhaps the stop is made to allow vendors to earn their living off the passengers. Bitter green oranges, handmade baskets full of nicely ripe mangos, wooden tree branches poking through roasted chicken leg/thigh combinations, tubs filled with cold drinks (in many cases refilled from plastic bottles picked up along the road), a fan of multi-colored handkerchiefs, single serving packs of biscuits (hard, plain, cookies), Juicy Fruit gum, small school booklets, and bras. Right…bras. One guy ran off to find me an English-to-Luganda language book. Webale Sebo (thank you sir).

Henry and I scrunched ourselves into two seats next to one another and had the opportunity to talk about so many things Ugandan. I spend more time with Lauren and Gabriel so having one-on-one time with Henry was so appreciated. This very smart man offered many suggestions toward becoming self-sustaining in Uganda both for me and for the average Ugandan.

Henry is a very wise advisor and a great teacher…but his shoulder was not quite right for leaning my head on. Sleeping on the bus was nearly impossible given the heat, the small space, and the very rough roads. Just as we began to doze an Islamic man began preaching to the captives. If I were smart (and bold) I would have countered his preaching with a little Jesus talk. Of course very few would have understood my English. I think of all the stories I’ve heard about preaching in tongues only to find the local people understood the message perfectly. A missed opportunity on my part.

In between the wide open spaces, the sights and sounds were beautiful and slowly transformed along the way. The natural beauty of the landscape moved from lush greenery to brown shrubbery. The further north (toward the equator) we went the less water for vegetation. Homes were round rather than rectangular, made of clay mud and dry grass to keep out the rain (although it almost never rains here). People were a bit taller and much knobbier and thinner. Their clothing style started including fabric wraps and bead waste bands and necklaces. The language changed from Luganda to Karamojong (with some Kiswahili). Welcome to Karamoja, it is now 6:00 p.m.