I hopped onto a bus to Gulu Friday morning, with Chris and Chelsea. The bus was very nice, with nice people. On the way to Gulu, we crossed the Nile and we got pictures of baboons.
History lesson: in northern Uganda, for the past twenty years, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has been abducting women (for raping purposes) and children (for recruiting purposes). They would have the children murder their own families as part of their training. The government set up camps with guards to protect the Ugandans; but corruption made the camps unsafe, because the guards were purchasable by the LRA. The camps were also boring, which led to large increases in HIV. And they were also cesspits for disease. An unbelievable situation.
Now, the LRA is in peace talks with the Ugandan government. I am pleased to report that Gulu is safe. I have not died yet, and I am unlikely to die soon.
The camp was incredible. Erin is helping to build community among youths in the camps. Because the LRA has been gone for a while, people can return to their land and farm. Unfortunately, land ownership is done solely by the community in a completely undocumented fashion: so upon return, two families will contest the same land and this can escalate to violence.
The camp was a real eye-opener. I'll save the stories until I get home.
The documentary filmmaker was opening my eyes, too. He has been in Africa for five years, and I have almost been completely convinced that I must visit Addis Ababa. When I have more time, I can post more.
We went to our hotel, and then went out to dinner at another hotel. There, we saw somebody wearing a Concordia sweatshirt. His name is Peter, and he is heading up a volunteer program. We followed him to his group's bonfire, where I was quite shocked to hear a girl saying,
Oh my God, it's Adam Hooper. Yes, Emily Marchand, from high school, is in that group. And the most absolutely random sequence of events has put me in contact with her.
The Concordia students have a curfew, so they couldn't go out. But we could, and did. There was dancing. Chris met a girl who it turns out had been abducted by the LRA at age 13 and had a baby at 16.
I will be in Gulu for the weekend; and because I could be useful to the Concordia volunteers, I may return in the future.
Do not worry about me. Gulu is safe. The peace talks may not be progressing very quickly, but there aren't any raids anywhere near here. It seems the LRA has run out of steam. In terms of development, there is a lot to be done to return the camp dwellers to their normal lives. The people I met have filled me with optimism in that regard. I have more to post, but no time in which to post it.