Monday, February 21, 2011

Gulu Trip February 8-10

by Hanna Schwing

Early last Tuesday, Darlyne and I arrived within seconds of each other at the Post Office, pulling up on boda bodas laden with bags full of fabric and zippers to take with us to Gulu. After our bags were thoroughly sniffed by security dogs, we purchased our tickets, paid the extra fee for our luggage, and boarded the Post Bus. Because the Post Bus keeps a strict schedule, it often departs Kampala with empty seats, and Darlyne and I were lucky enough to share a three-seat row between ourselves and stretch out a bit.

A little Kampala traffic

The five hour bus ride was uneventful apart from having the most amazing chapati (a delicious oily flat bread available across East Africa) possible, purchased exactly halfway between Kampala and Gulu. We, nevertheless, felt exhausted when we arrived in Gulu Tuesday afternoon, and spent an hour at Hotel Kakanyero unpacking and recovering from the long bus ride. Uganda is in the middle of an intense dry season, and it was especially hot and dusty in Gulu.

After our brief bus trip recovery, we walked to meet Lucy, Esther and Concy at Lucy's new shop, just across the street from the Gulu market and a few steps from Jojo's Palace. I hadn't seen the tailors for two months, and seeing them again felt like a little Awava reunion. Darlyne and I exchanged greetings with the tailors, asking about each person's Christmas (good), New Year (good), parents (good), children (back in school after their holiday) and business (good). The new shop space was perfect, with enough room to work comfortably and a back room to be used for storage and to allow customers to change if they were trying on clothes. Greetings thoroughly exchanged, Darlyne and I returned to Hotel Kakanyero to shower and do a little work before dinner.

Lucy's shop sign, a bit worn but still effective

Making our trip especially pleasant was the ability to meet up with several friends from Kampala, including Abigail Kajumba. Darlyne, Abigail and I had an early dinner at a cafe nearby, chatting for several hours before we walked back to our hotel to sleep.

The next morning, we had breakfast with Abigail and her colleague, Paul, exchanging ideas about what would happen during the elections to begin in a week and a half. The consensus was that despite the revolutions happening in northern Africa, Uganda's election would be fairly peaceful. Darlyne and I finished breakfast and said our farewells to Abigail and Paul. We then returned to our room to pack up fabrics to bring to Lucy's new shop.

Walter, a tailor who also works with Lucy, met us at the hotel and helped us carry the fabric to the shop. Darlyne and I quickly set up in the backroom, assigning fabrics and attempting to calculate the number of each of our new products that could be made from 6 yards of kitenge. It was one in the afternoon by the time we finished, and we decided to have a light lunch and do a bit more work before returning to the shop three hours later.

On our return, we counted the products ready that afternoon and had lengthier talks with the tailors about what we had missed in Gulu. Darlyne and I planned to stop by the shop again early the next morning to pick up the rest of the Awava order before taking a bus back to Kampala. We said our goodbyes to the tailors and went back to Kakanyero.

Darlyne and I met up with two more friends from Kampala, Johan and Maria, as well as a group of Johan's friends, for a fantastic meal at the well hidden Ethiopian restaurant in Gulu. We then returned to the hotel fairly early to pack and rest for our return to Kampala.

On Thursday morning, Darlyne and I had a quick breakfast at Kakanyero before walking to Lucy's shop to pick up a few more finished products. We quickly counted products and snipped off a few loose threads before saying goodbye again and walking back to the hotel to check out, collect our luggage, and go to the bus station. We arrived at the bus station with plenty of time to spare, especially considering that the bus was two hours late. Upon finally reaching Kampala at 5pm, Darlyne and I departed the bus and walked together for a few minutes to find transport to our respective homes.

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