Okay where did we leave off? I think we were about to go to Bright Future.
This place is absolutely amazing and made me wish I had more time in Mbarara. Sheila, the head woman, is totally exhausted but such an inspiration. She has taken the often broken system of orphanages in Uganda and tried to downsize it so it was more of a family dynamic. This smaller size (13 children currently) allows her to also throw in all her efforts to try to relocate the children she gets on her doorstep, from the police, from the hospital or from finding them abandoned in the bush. Unfortunately if the children are with her past one year typically they will remain there until they go out on their own. This has happened to several of her children and many are at risk of this happening soon. Her older children have been taken out of school as they struggle to speak and understand English so many of my students will be returning and teaching them English and math. Sheila also informed us that adoption within Uganda is very rare as the unknown of their family heritage is a big barrier. There are
several beliefs about children carrying curses, etc.
My last night in Mbarara was short as the lovely students fed me, a random doctor for Cuba gave me coffee and a flower because "I am lonely" (he asked a lot about my marital status back home - it is okay Dustin. I taught him to say your name).
After the last few days in Mbarara I traveled the long 12.5 hour journey to Gulu. Now this would have still been a lengthly trip but not as lengthy if I had ditched my collegues and went alone. I quickly realized how I like to travel making the least ripple possible and this was shattered during my journey. I appreciated the company for sure but struggled with the slow pace we moved at, the too short of clothing, the loud speaking and the throwing around of money that really brought us attention. Luckily nothing terrible happened but I did end up in a sticky situtation on our last day. Anyways, arrived in Gulu safely and stayed at Lacor Hospital. Which is HUGE and AMMMMAAZZZZINNNNGG! Got to meet some of the team and prepared for a long meeting the following day.
2 in Gulu was going to this meeting and then to Amani in the afternoon. Amani is a womens group organized by women who had previously been abducted by the Lords Resistance Army - the group responsible for the war that ended in Gulu in 2006. This is where I ran into trouble due to my companions. They were, as was I, moved by what this group of women do and started giving them larger bills for donation. When it was my time to pay I did not include a donation (as I literally had just enough money for food that evening) but I was being slightly pressured by the woman to give more. I am thankful these people recieved a donation but when traveling in a group try to be aware of others situations in life. Also, my tour guide friend explained handing out money like this is dangerous. Word spreads quickly and the guides job of keeping you safe becomes so difficult as you put a target on your group for robberies, bribes, etc.
We also went to St. Judes - an amazing orphanage in Gulu that runs within family units. This is a new concept here but
works so well. I went out to a club that night but got hit with travelers sickness partway through - super fun when Ugandan women pee in front of each other and you feel like crap. Had five women yelling at me when my bum touched the edge of the toilet. All I wanted was privacy and to not shit my pants! Thankfully that happened when I got back to the hospital dorm. I managed to squeeze in a tour of the hospital led by the founders daughter (swoon worthy moment) before I got sick and collected more information from hospital staff interviews to take back to Canada.
The next day was a short drive to Entebbe where I prayed I would not shit in the car. Passed out at the Guest House then had a friend walk me around the Botanical Gardens as it is my favourite place! The fresh air was nice but we stopped on a boat and that was AWFUL. My dizziness kicked in high gear and I left early. I was happy my friend drove so I got the Guest House quickly, got sick, then chatted while surviving off Stoney (a ginger based soda).
The next morning consisted of trying to go for walks but running back to the Guest House and hoping to make my flight to Rwanda.
Thankfully I am sitting in the Rwanda Genocide Memorial cafe eating food (that my body seems to be okay with) and reflecting on the museum I just saw. I can't even begin to put into words what I saw and this is years after the 1994 genocide as an outsider. Talking to members of Gulu what they experienced during that war made me tear up but I was crying like I never have in public as people passed me by. I feel like this is something that will take awhile to digest and put into words.
But I am going to sign off.
Sending love from Africa.
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