Friday, February 19, 2010

R&R Number the First (Part Three)


11 February 2010, Gulu 3:56 PM

Pulling into the Gulu buspark and there! out the window! is a Land Cruiser belonging to the NGO my friend K is employed by.

Shove aside and climb over the people who seem to be just lounging in the aisle, oh my gosh, won't you move!?

And suddenly I am outside in the sandy dry heat of the North. I run up to the window of the LC and tap-tap-tap and it is rolled down. The apologetic driver explains to me that K is out of the country. I give a message to be delivered to her, turn around, scan for C, breath in the North, and think how lovely it is to be in a region where I know people, which is so different from the bright (MONUC) lights big city black lava of Goma.

Gulu buspark. Oh I do think it looks different, it seems more normal. Yes, on the drive up the country you can still see the gradual fade out of government support from “a lot” in Kampala to “just about none” in the North. But. Different from fourteen months ago, it seems – oh, I don’t know. Happier?

But maybe that is just me, happy to be back.

Restaurant, 4:18 PM

C and I, brown with dust mixed with sweat smearing our skins along with bus grime, are digging into our sugar crepes when in he walks. P. And – what is that in his arms? – it is my lovely beautiful baby-nephew-baby J.

J, fourteen months later.

Babies grow.

When I left he was learning to stand. Today, he is running running running circles around the restaurant, up to other tables, grinning, giggling, charming everybody.

The Road, 4:39 PM

We settle the tab and together, along with P’s sister-in-law and cousin, climb onto motorcycle taxis and ride them twenty-five minutes outside of town to P’s grandfather’s farm. I spread my arms like poor oppressed Kate Winslet in Titanic feeling freeeeeeeeee as we are flyyyyyyying past huts and homes and trees and people and. Red dust devils are surging beside us. I pull my arms back in and grip the shoulders of my boda-boda driver, feeling his taunt muscles flex beneath my fingers.

Grandfather's Farm, 5:19 PM

P recently lost his job (he was a protection officer with an international NGO but the North is no longer a war zone so donors are slashing funds and NGOs are pulling back, away). While he searches for new employment, he is raising bees, vines, trees, for honey, oranges, even grapes (grapes!).

Even the trees which do not bear fruit are important to cultivate, he tells us, because of land tenure rights, sure, but mainly because of climate change - and so because of J and all the children like J.

12 February 2010, Gulu 8:12 AM

Intercultural communication is, as always, a tripper-upper in interpersonal comprehension. Last night we took P out to dinner because that is what you do, as an American guest – you repay hospitality, you get people food. It was a lovely dinner, so fun, but P was resistant to our treating him. We were insistent, and stubborn, my cousin and me.

We stayed in a hotel because there is no room at P’s house. What does P do? At night, he sneaks into our hotel lobby and pays our bill for us.

I feel like I am a misunderstanding, yet actual-real-accepted, part of his community, and I love.

[On to Kitgum... to be continuuuued...]


Janet said...


Account of your R&R leaves me wishing........wishing to have been there with you and to see my family, wishing i could write succinctly and impressively like you. Thanks for sharing. J

Rachel said...

Thanks, Janet!!!!!! <3 I love your family and everyone in Kitgum... I still haven't written about Kitgum... I still have to... it's just I did SO MUCH in the 36 hours I was there! It's hard to know where to begin...