Boda, Boda!

Ichoo Maber,

One of the biggest features of Gulu is the Boda ride. A boda is a motorcycle that is used as a taxi and in Gulu, is the number one mode of transport aside from hoofing it. It is not for the faint of heart for there are many near accidents. I remember one incident when I thought I was definitely a goner. I was on my way to Sacred Heart and for some reason the Boda driver thought I was in a hurry because he speed demoned down the dusty, red clay road. I held on for dear life-oh I forgot to mention that women sit sideways for modesty reasons (they mostly wear skirts).  We were going around a roundabout when some nincompoop decided it was a good idea to step in front of the Boda. We were going too fast. I closed my eyes and braced for impact. Miraculously, we did not collide. The Boda driver called the pedestrian crazy and we continued on our merry little way. Whew!

Bodas are very interesting to watch. How so? Well it has to do with how people ride them. There is the curiosity of the number of people able to ride a Boda. My colleagues and I saw as many as five people on a Boda and we dubbed these the Boda bus. Then there is what cargo a Boda can carry. Bodas are not only cabs. Some Ugandans own a Boda and use them to transport anything from chickens in a crate to couches. One of the biggest things we saw on a Boda was an upright refrigerator, and one of the most peculiar-another Boda.

I have a video clip of me riding a Boda and it is filmed from the vantage point of the rider, me. Aside from a few excess exclamations (hey, I’m a drama queen), it is a fairly accurate account of my journey to work every morning. I will try to include it on this blog, but in the event of download issues, I will post it on Facebook.


Laker Runita

P.S- for those of you who don’t know, my Acoli name is Laker, which means Princess or Queen. It is common for you to use your
Acoli name first then your Christian name second. I guess Runita is my “Christian” name.


Prayers for Boda driver Ariem Simon.

I’m  including this entry here because our subject is Bodas. It’s regarding a haunting Boda ride I had going into town during the middle of my trip. I have forgotten my precise reason for going to town but I remember Ariem. He must be in his mid-late twenties or early thirties at the most. We we talking as often happens between Boda drivers and their riders. Perhaps I was asking him how I, an African American was viewed. Was I a Muno? By some accounts this is the the Acoli name for white person and others a name meaning westerner or foreingner. At any rate, as we neared town he started telling me this was his last night in Gulu; he was moving to Kampala. He told me he was an orphan and had no one. Kampala is a big city. I wondered and asked what he hoped to accomplish there. He said he would drive the Boda there and hoped he would make more money. He was from Gulu and from the way he talked, I started to worry about him in the big city. He was not animated the way many Boda drivers I met had been. I often wonder why they are so animated when many were abductees and former soldiers in the war (that’s what I was told, I’m not certain). Anyway, Simon was very soft spoken and had a far off quality about him. I couldn’t help wishing that I had the means to help him somehow. We had been warned against throwing money at situations with no real thought about sustainability. I found myself wondering how I could help, he seemed so lost. We arrived at my destination and he had a hard time saying goodbye. Not knowing what else to do, I gave him a little extra for the ride (my colleagues would balk because this practice does not bode well for locals who can’t afford the inflated price) and told him I would keep him in my prayers. With that he reluctantly rode off. I am still haunted by this experience, so I would like to ask you to pray for Ariem Simon as well. Apwoyo.

Published in: on July 16, 2009 at 4:18 pm  Comments (3)  

Free Fallin’! Bungee jumping over the Nile River.

OK, OK. I didn’t jump…this time. I got as far as giving the woman my credit card when I realized I’d probably be a bundle of tears and I didn’t want to embarrass myself.  Bungee jumping is on my bucket list and I hope to have a jump before age 50. I want to jump over Nile so I need to hurry; Adrift may have to change locations and who knows if they will have the Nile High Bungee at their new place.  So, how did I become interested in such a hair-brained idea as Bungee jumping? After all I’m totally not the adventurous type.

The truth is I was interested when I first learned I’d have the opportunity on this trip to Uganda. I was swayed from the idea when a student of mine in New York advised against it, saying it was painful. This kid seemed fearless so if he said not to jump, I wouldn’t. Then the day of reckoning arrived and five of my colleagues decided to take the plunge. My brain assessed the height (44 meters) of the jump and decided it wasn’t so intimidating after all. I still decided it wasn’t for me. I be the great cheerleader on the sidelines. After witnessing my colleagues’s jumps, I got the hankering to give a go. Heck, I like roller coasters and besides, you are bound by the legs-you couldn’t get hurt. I teach my students to be fearless, what better way to live up to that than to hurl myself towards the mighty Nile? While these adventurers of my group decided to face the Nile more directly through Whitewater rafting-I can’t swim so this was definitely out-and I faced the wrath if Adrift’s new speedboat, I contemplated the jump seriously. I considered my students and my own desire for the spotlight. I could see the admiration from students and peers as they watched me plunge 44 meters towards the Nile. It was sweet. Intoxicated with these visions of grandeur, I bravely informed my group of my intentions. They were ecstatic! Ru wanted to bungee jump. They encouraged me. I went to pay for the jump and lost my nerve…sort of.  What really stopped me was not necessarily nerves but this. During the Safari, I decided to overcome my fear of climbing by getting on top of the Matatu we were riding in for a more spectacular view of the animals.  As I was climbing, I stepped and slipped on a loose bar located in the back right window of the vehicle, nearly impaling my lower abdomen on a rusty nail protruding from the top of the vehicle. I had survived that with only a minor cut, what could happen if I jumped? I fought myself back and forth but in the end, decided I might tense up and be hurt somehow. Also, as I stated earlier, I didn’t want to collapse into a bundle of tears.

So, that is the story of my decision of to jump or not to jump.  I’m sorry of some of you are dissappointed. I’ll keep you posted on my bucket list accomplishments. I have included the jumps of all five of my colleagues for your perusal. Some of them I shot at the wrong angle, but I believe they are still interesting to watch. Enjoy!

Ok, so I’m having trouble uploading the video. This will be continued.

Published in: on July 15, 2009 at 5:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Leaving Gulu

It seems that every time I am online I am in a hurry. I had some issues with logging on to WordPress so I will not complete this post. This Blog will be out of order as I have had little time to write. These are my last few days in Gulu and it is Bittersweet. Bitter because I have been well received and I don’t want to go. Sweet because I have had a wonderful experience. I will try to write later with my reflections on leaving. Now I must go so I can spend the rest of my Ugandan money. Achoo Maber.

Laker (My Acoli name) pronounced la que

Published in: on July 8, 2009 at 8:15 am  Leave a Comment  


     Ichoo Maber, from Gulu Uganda! I have been four weeks in Gulu and am now finding the time to share with you my experiences. This blog is not intending to win a Nobel Prize nor, my English teacher colleagues, is it intended to be grammatically correct. I will simply relay the happenings around Gulu town. I might post another entry before I leave Gulu, I might not. At any rate, here, finally is my blog.


     A region torn by a twenty-year war. Fear and worry about the return of the war. Rampant malaria and diseases. Infested water that needs disinfecting. A town almost entirely cut off from the modern world. A city of danger and despair. That is the Uganda I expected to see.


      People in the process of healing from a twenty-year war. Relatively “modern” living conditions. Dusty clay roads. Boda Bodas everywhere. Dusty boda rides. Scary Boda rides. Beautiful babies. Kids and women with heavy objects on their heads. Matazas for breakfast. Posho and beans everyday for lunch. Beautiful singing. People with easy, beautiful, welcoming smiles. A place I would come back to visit. A place I could live in. That is the Gulu I know and love.


     I can’t believe that it’s almost time for me to return to the states and though I miss home and all my friends, I don’t want to leave-not yet. A month and a half is not nearly enough time to embrace a people and a culture. I have been completely welcomed by Ugandans and have just started to slip into a routine here.


     Gulu district is a beautiful region with picturesque grasslands called the bush and dusty red clay roads whose dust gets stuck in your hair, on your skin and on your clothes. I am writing this blog while getting ready for a Safari. The Mutatu is here and I must go.


     That was actually a week ago and the Safari is a whole story to itself. Keep checking back here for the complete scoop. Now I’ve spent five weeks here and I’ll continue to discuss my time here in general. Let’s see, where did I leave off…Oh I was talking about the dust.


     To reiterate, there is lots of dust here and it sticks to everything. I can’t believe it. I’ve had so much to say and now I can’t think of anything.  Well, I guess I’ll start by tackling different topics. The first being London, England.

Where Did They Go?



     So it was May 31st and I was actually there. London, England! First Wave Teacher Exchange participants deplane and head off for a few hours of adventure in London. We had about a six-hour lay over in London and decided to go explore the city for two or three hours. We needed some cash so we went to the ATM to get money. It was here that it happened. After some difficulty, I finally got money from the ATM machine and headed back to the group-only they weren’t there. They had disappeared. Poof! I couldn’t believe it. I searched for them downstairs at the downstairs London subway entrance not there. I went back upstairs to see if maybe they’d gone to the bathroom. No one there. They really had left without me. At first, I was upset, but I had no time to fret if I was to see London. I was a tough cookie; after all, I was from New York. I could handle this. I found the information desk, asked for maps, and boarded subway for my adventures in London.


     The London subway is called the tube and reminds me of the New Jersey Transit trains. I was struck immediately with how similar this first experience was like my life in New York. The trains were crowded with tourists and natives in a hurry to reach their various destinations. When I got off the train, I realized the information clerk had directed me to the shopping district. There was nothing special about this area; it looked like any shopping area in the world. I was not impressed. I had no idea where to go and I could not eat in a restaurant because I did not take out enough money. I was afraid of spending too much money and not having enough for my stay in Uganda. Why had the clerk assumed I wanted to shop? I can’t stand shopping when there is so much history to see! I bumbled about for ten minutes of so, believing this would be all I’d see of London. I did not have a watch, as they are not needed in New York with cell phones and clocks everywhere. I thought of returning to the airport when I decided that I was not going to be defeated! I looked at the map to see where the main attractions of London were located. I really wanted to see Buckingham Palace and realized that, according to the map, it was in walking distance. I decided to walk. I stopped along the way to take a picture of London taxis, they were so cute! They reminded of cars from the thirty’s but smaller.


      I proceeded to walk in the direction that was indicated on the map and did not run into Buckingham Palace. I started to worry that if I kept venturing too far from my original starting point that I might get lost and perhaps would not make it back in time for the plane. I was stubborn, though and decided I should press on; I had to see something of London. I eventually landed in this amusement area with a large Ferris Wheel and numerous street vendors and buskers. I decided to check this out. In some ways, this area of London reminded me of Washington Square Park in New York and I felt at home. I wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel but, as I said, I was frightened of spending too much money. I walked to the other end of this complex and saw a familiar sight, Westminster Abbey. I was glad to see an attraction located where I could retrace my steps and I decided it would be great to see so I walked over to it. I walked around it and realized that this was the House of Parliament. I was determined to see Westminster Abbey. I noticed that, like New York, the tube was connected decided to bravely stray from my path. I saw several buildings named Westminster Abbey and after some walking, I gave up. I really did want to see Buckingham Palace so I re-consulted the map and discovered that it was not that far away. I found a clock and realized I had about an hour and a half before I needed to head back to Heathrow. I started hoofing it to Buckingham Palace.


     I walked, and walked, and walked, and walked. No Palace. I looked at the map and checked my streets and it still indicated that I was on the right track. I doggedly pressed on.  Finally, I saw the main street of the palace. Yea! I walked faster. I still was twisted but finally made it. Buckingham Palace! Right in the middle of London. I thought it would be somewhat outside of the city. But it was in the middle and easily accessible. For this to be the royal palace, I thought it was grossly under protected. There were just guards at the main gate. I also, thought it was unimpressive and unremarkable. It looked like governmental administrative offices and not a world renown Palace. I got a picture of me in front it and then left. I had the tube to catch.


     The rest of the time in London included a walk through to catch the tube back to the airport. Of course, this took time because I got semi lost again. Eventually, I got to the line and boarded the train back to Heathrow. I had seen Buckingham Palace! My messed up day turned out to be awesome after all!

Published in: on July 8, 2009 at 8:04 am  Leave a Comment