[Luke, Wednesday morning]
Our second full day in Lira. We are just hanging out in the house where we have been staying for the last couple days. The house where we are supposed to move into for the next 5 months is in theory available today. In theory. The extent of the conversation with this guy was like "yes I have rooms in my house that I have rented to American students in the past, yes you are welcome to them." He has been in Europe or something for the past x weeks and is supposed to get back to town today. Hopefully we don't get an April's Fools Day prank of epic proportions. "Welcome to my mudhut, Here's your room. Haha April Fools!" "Nope, I don't really live in Lira at all. April Fools!" Worst case scenario, there are hotels (plural, but not very) and I guess there are a lot of houses for rent because all the NGO's have packed up and moved to Gulu. So good that there's space, not so good that apparently we showed up to the ball at 12:01.
I guess the rainy season started in earnest yesterday. Everyone has been saying that it's late and who knows what to expect. Well, Luke and Pat got here, so that means of course its time for the torrential downpour. It rained hard hard hard. Funny that pouring rain, crazy wind and overcast sky was the big thing so far that has made me think of home. It was nice though, the rains cooled everything down and it was quiet and cool all night (I guess the dogs were all hiding from the rain). Slept solid all the way through. Like most places around the equator, it was hot sun all morning, then rain for a couple hours in the afternoon. Will this be the trend, I have no idea.
We ventured into town yesterday, with moderate success. We had no idea where town was or really how we would know when we got there. So we set off, walking along no big deal. We see a school in the distance, little kids. They all swarm up against the fence, like easily hundreds of little kids. They are all waving and chanting, forreal chanting, something. It sounded like mona(o?) which we were told means "whiteman." They continued this treatment until we were out of sight. We couldn't tell if it was like a "Hey, look at those," or a "Hey, what's up." Kind of uncomfortable. On a related note, kind of strange that they yell something sounding like mono at us. Pat was saying that at the Euroleague soccer games, all the racist-ass Spanish fans scream "mono" at the black stars. Mono means "monkey" in Spanish. As far as I could tell, five hundred small children were crowded up against a fence heckling us screaming "monkey" as we walked past. Like I said, kind of uncomfortable. Then we passed another school; smaller kids, less organized. Not quite so weird because they just crowded the fence but didn't chant anything. Weird way to start your day.
So then we walked walked walked along and came to what we clearly the "main road," I don't know how we determined this because there sure weren't signs or distinguishing marks of any kind. It was clear that one way led to town and success, and the other to abject failure and possible angry lions. As if you couldn't already guess, of course the human compass is just sure that left (the opposite direction as the little market stalls mind you) is the way to go. Like 45 minutes of walking later, umm maybe not. It was good getting in a little walk though, we have been cooped up in meetings, operating on other people's schedules since we left Boston. It was nice to get lost on our own terms.
Long story slightly-less-long we got to town and wandered around looking for food for a couple hours. Moderate success. We bought some peanut butter and bread, ready to accept defeat but found a traditional Ugandan food buffet (always buffets in Ugandan food) on our way back. I think beans and rice for lunch is going to be a common theme. Everyone had been telling us that up north, the staple is millet, and they were right. Allow me to describe millet: It's black and grainy, with a thick consistency kind of like if you mixed the jello with cornmeal. It doesn't really taste per se. In the sense that good is the absence of bad, it's delicious. In the sense that good is the presence of goodness, its nothing to write home about (I'm writing home about it right now, so I think I should be struck by lightning at any second?). But yea, town was normal and eminently doable. A few grocery stores, a few cafes, a market, several banks, etc. Maybe like 8 square blocks of distinct townishness, which is very manageable. It is not the mudhut hole in the ground I was dreading. I have begun to develop an unhealthy cynicism in the last few days, always expecting the absolute worst. Hopefully I get over that when we get a house to live in.
So we survived our first day in town, it didn't start raining until after we got back. Aside from the school children, nobody seemed terribly impressed by us, which is a good sign. We walked through the market and no body hassled us, also a good sign. I think we are just starting to get a handle on one of the major differences between Latin America and here: there, anybody who is trying to get your attention is probably trying to hassle you and sell you gum. Here that may not be the case, they may just want to say 'what's up." If so, we are probably being the rudest people ever.
Hopefully the next post is us basking in the air conditioned wirelessness of our new home sipping on Gin & Tonics (gotta get those anti-malarial properties, you know) [oh! Wednesday is malaria pill day. We woudn't want to forget that that now would we] .