Sunday, July 3, 2011

East Africa Day 51 (Sun July 3): Intro to the Gulu, Uganda Nonprofit World

Had breakfast of great fruit juice, tea and bananas this AM in the hotel dining area, while watching National Geographic on the TV screen hanging from the ceiling in one corner of the room. We were watching a program about University of Wyoming faculty and students who were studying black bears hibernating. Was a novel experience - firstly, I've seen very little TV since arriving in East Africa, and certainly weird to watch a show about a USA university program and snow in the hotel cafe:)

After breakfast I took a walk around this part of Gulu town, searching for a wireless internet café. I saw families dressed up, headed to church. Some of the little girls were beautifully dressed in fancy dresses - that's when I realized that today is Sunday:) I found a restaurant with wireless that serves Lebanese Food. I met the Lebanese chef, heard about his sister who lives in Chicago, and said I’d be back for lunch. I then used the traditional internet café across the street from our hotel. It was fun sitting in the internet café, which was in a shop the size of a closet – so many different people coming and going over that two hour period.

Met back up with Charlie and Annette, and went to the Lebanese restaurant for lunch. There was a big group sitting at the table next to us, including a few young girls with curly light blonde hair. The girls were the first wazungu kids that I’ve seen since boarding my flight at Heathrow – feels like ages ago! (I wasn’t sure if I had the plural for ”mazungu” correct - just checked with the really nice Ugandan who manages the hotel. In Luganda (Uganda’s main language) it’s “bazungu” and in Kiswahili (Kenya) it’s “wazungu”.)

Nikki, Charlie’s friend who is interning with Invisible Children, met us at the restaurant. We went back to the hotel and hung out in the lounge for a bit. I learned that ninety people work in the Invisible Children Gulu office, and that Invisible Children has a few other offices in Uganda. (Home office is in San Diego.) Nikki is from San Diego, has been here since March, and leaves next month. She takes photos of programs and events, writes blog posts, and helps out with office tours. She and Charlie met one and a half years ago, while volunteering at a faith-based orphanage in Jinja. I’m hoping to get to visit the orphanage when I return to Jinja, before heading back to Kenya.

Charlie and I then went for a walk with Nikki, while Annette relaxed at the hotel. We walked over to the Invisible Children house, which is on the outskirts of town – about a 20 minute walk from our hotel. We walked along a very dusty road, called Juba Road. It runs up to Juba, in south Sudan. Nikki said she thinks that it takes about four hours to get to Juba from here. I love that we are that close!! Nikki lives at the house with two Invisible Children staff members, and three beautiful pet rabbits who live on the fenced in and guarded compound grounds. The women invited Charlie, Annette and I to stay with them for the remainder of our time in Gulu. They have an extra room with spare beds. So nice!!! We are moving our things over there from the hotel in the AM.

Hillary, one of Nikki’s housemates, visited with us for a little bit. Nikki's other roommate is a woman named Bergen - both Americans.

Tomorrow AM we are going to take a tour of the Invisible Children office, guided by Nikki. Then we might visit some other Gulu-based organizations, like Krochet Kids and 21 Bits. I'm so excited! I had a long conversation with one of the Krochet Kids reps at the Treasure Island Music Festival in San Francisco last fall, while running the Headcount booth. I loved the org, and even blogged about them - but had forgotten that they work in Uganda, never mind that they're in Gulu. 21 Bits makes designer jewelry out of the paper beads, and sells them in California surf shops. I’m looking forward to checking out the Gulu nonprofit world:)

We went back to the hotel/restaurant/bar/internet café across the street for dinner. I had more beans and rice – at least I know my stomach likes that dish:) Nikki mentioned that it rains here every day at approximately 5:30pm. She was right on, but it was only a brief rain. At least it’s cooler out, tonight – it was too hot here last night- hottest night I’ve experienced yet in East Africa.

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