White Ants and Bed Frames: Our Journey to Gulu

We’ve finally arrived in Gulu!  I have to admit, there isn’t too much to write because we did not wake up this morning until noon (after almost 48 hours of travel, we were exhausted).  So I am just going to discuss some of the highlights from our stay so far.  Most of our adventures come from our journey from the airport to Gulu.

One of the first things we did upon arrival was travel to Kampala to exchange our money.  For any New Jerseyians out there, you could probably understand what it is like driving in Kampala.  Cars went where they wanted, when they wanted.  And so many people rode motorcycles as well, weaving in and out of traffic, almost hitting us a few times!  Kampala was incredibly busy and big.  So many people, so many buildings, so many things to buy.  We saw the giant mall (Garden City), the main hotel in the city, and the big Chinese restaurant that Franny says makes delicious pork ribs.

After we exchanged out money, we headed onto the open road towards Gulu.  A couple of things from our ride.  I kept seeing signs painted on the buildings saying ‘Colour your world, Sadolin.’  For a while, I just thought that there were a million paint stores all over Uganda.  But Franny told me that Sadolin actually advertises their product by painting ads on other store fronts.  So that was pretty cool.  Also, so many roadside stores sold beds.  And these were big, four-post, ornate wooden beds.  We saw about 100 separate locations with them sitting out front.  I didn’t know there was such a demand for beds!  After a couple of hours, we stopped at a roadside market to buy some fruit.  Our car was swarmed by salesmen trying to sell us kebab, cassava, and water.  Instead, we bought pineapple, potatoes, and plantains.

The countryside was absolutely beautiful!  There were giant cactus trees, banana trees, really skinny pines, and huge mounds of red dirt that are called ‘hills.’   A little about these hills.  They house a species of bug called white ants.  Apparently, under very specific conditions (when it rains in the morning, and then the sun shines in the afternoon, at a certain time of year), if you put a fire near a hill, hundreds of white ants fly out.  We saw these last night, coming out of the hills in droves.  It was like a swarm of locusts!  And the reason that people try to smoke out the ants is that they catch them, fry them, and eat them for a delicacy.  I have to say, though bugs are not part of my regular diet, I am pretty excited to try these fried white ants (everyone says they taste delicious)!

On our ride, we also saw the local wildlife.  Cattle in Uganda have GIANT horns.  I would not want to upset one of them, because they could stick a horn straight through you with room to spare.  Also, there were these massive birds all over, with wingspans the size of small children.  Franny also told us that if you bring bananas to some parts, you can feed the monkeys.  Hopefully when we go on our tour of the National Park, we will see some more animals.  For now, we have also seen goats, chickens, ducks, and Pamela’s adorable cat, Chillian (I’m about 90% sure I spelled that wrong).

When we finally did wake up this morning, we found waiting for us a delicious breakfast of bread, a peanut buttery-like substance (except more bitter), and honey.  There was a also some food that tasted like French fries, and hard boiled eggs.  Ugandan tea (Afrikana Tea) is delicious!  I’ve been awake for less than 12 hours and already had 3 cups.   We’ve also eaten a delicious tortilla-like dish called chapatti, which Pamela and Franny will teach us to make.  So when we come back, ask any of us and we will make you some!

Next we went to the GWED-G office, and met the staff.  So many new faces!  We are all really excited to get to know everyone better.  Juliet and Franny then took us into town to buy a Sim card for the phone.  While there, these little kids followed us and tried to touch Livy’s leg.  It was really cute because they smiled at us really sheepishly afterwards.  We also met Franny’s nephew and friends, including a woman she went to mid-wife school with.  Everyone is incredibly friendly!  Franny’s nephew thought it was really funny when Lillian said the Sim card would cost 2,000 dollars, instead of 2,000 shillings (apparently, 2,000 dollars is more than a plot of land costs).

Overall, it was a great first day in Gulu.  Since we are all still so tired, we are going to bed early so we can wake up well rested for our first day in the field tomorrow!

Pictures to come – still working on getting internet on our own laptops, so posting from Pamela’s today.

– Nicole

2 responses to “White Ants and Bed Frames: Our Journey to Gulu

  1. Woo glad you made it there safely! So excited to live vicariously through you this summer!

    Were the french fry-like things fried plantains by chance? I had plantians almost every day in Nicaragua, and at first I didn’t like them but then I realized that they taste like potatoes and are cooked in every way that potatoes are cooked, and now I love them.

    Can’t wait to read more!

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