The GROW team left New York on May 19th and arrived in Gulu on May 22nd. Our flight from JKF to Dubai was 13 hours. Along the way we had a layover in Dubai and went adventuring. Below are a couple photos of the sites we saw. We went by the Jumeirah Mosque, the Burj Kalifah, and even dipped our toes in the Arabian Gulf. Our tour bus group consisted of us and a giant group of Paraguayan dancers headed to Cairo. They were all wearing red shirts and black track pants, and I coincidentally fit in with them due to my red GlobeMed tank and black leggings.
From Dubai we hopped on our connecting flight to Entebbe. Luckily, our flight this time was only 5 hours, but customs took about an hour and a half. Juliet and Robert met us after we got our bags and took us to the hotel. We stayed the night in Kampala due to the deteriorating road conditions as we got closer to Gulu. We exchanged currency and had dinner with Juliet and Robert. Kampala was not what I was expecting. The roads were well maintained and there were policemen on most street corners. We also saw many United Nations vans and planes, which are common, but Robert said there are more right now due to the crisis in South Sudan.
The next morning Robert picked us up and we headed on towards Gulu. We made a couple of stops along the way to pick up fruit from local markets. Juliet explained that food was cheaper in the towns we passed on the way to Gulu. My favorite part of this was when Juliet bought a live chicken, which I thought was dead. She laughed as she pulled it up to show me where the clucking noise was coming from. Along the drive, Juliet and Robert discussed new approaches to HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. Robert suggested a calendar system, where families could write in the date of their hospital or clinical visit and by checking their calendar they would remember to go. Juliet suggested that the problem with this is holding people accountable, and Robert also said that men do not like to go to hospitals, even to accompany their pregnant wives. Religion was another factor that Robert thought could stimulate awareness. 80% of Uganda is Christian and Robert thought it might be possible to spread awareness messages through faith.
During the drive we found out that Pam had been called to an emergency meeting in Kampala for the night and ended up meeting her on the way. Right after we crossed a bridge that went over the Nile River, we ran into Pam on the road. We, and some friendly baboons, greeted her. The baboons were more interested in our bananas than her. Juliet was not a fan of the baboons, and we left quickly after exchanging a quick hello. Pam told us she would be back on Saturday. She was meeting with a donor and also needed to give a proposal to the Libyan embassy.
Finally, we arrived in Gulu. Pam separated our rooms by gender, which means David has a room all to himself, while I am with Mariko, Emma, and Helen. We each have our own bed, which is great. Upon arriving we were greeted by Emi, a GlobeMed alumna from the University of Madison in Wisconsin. She came to intern for Pam after completing her GROW trip in Cambodia. After we ate dinner, Emi took us to the Coffee Hut so we could have wi-fi long enough to tell our parents we had made it safely to Gulu. Below are a few photos of our ride there on the boda bodas.
After we returned, David helped make mango-pineapple-jackfruit juice for dinner, which was delicious. Prince and Preston warmed up to David and looked at photos on his computer. Pam’s brother, Edward, joined us for dinner and spoke about the general violence of Uganda’s recent past. Edward specifically spoke about the war and explained that kidnapped child soldiers were sent to counseling before they could be re-assimilated back into society. Counseling stressed that killing people was not an acceptable way to handle a situation. Due to the children being kidnapped at a young age, they were essentially programmed to kill and did not understand why killing was unjust. Counseling was initiated and carried out to help change their views.
Overall, we had a great journey here and are excited for Pam to come back from Kampala. Monday we begin going out into the field to see our project firsthand. Keep a look out for our next blog post!
With love from Gulu and the Grow team,