Saturday, August 15, 2009

This taxi aint full yet

(Lira: approximately this fun)

[Part Two of the epic tale of our triumphant return to Lira- for part one see "Gyspy in Rasta's clothing"]

So we last left off in the middle of nowhere in Gulu just stranded, lost and hopeless. That being said, it was a huge relief to be out of that situation- constantly waiting for the next thing to go down. The problem wasn't so much that he was being a gypsy. Rather, given that he had shown himself to be a card-carrying gypsy, all bets for proper behavior were out the window and we decided its better to be stranded, lost and hopeless in NGO-town Gulu than on a rutted dirt road halfway between Gulu and nowhere. Because the last thing we'd want is to be in some 3 shop village between two places no one has ever heard of with no cellphone reception and like $20 between the two of us. Oh yea, and we don't speak Acholi. Because no one would want that.

To my knowledge we had one piece of useful information about Gulu: We had overheard someone say that there's a good coffee shop with White People Food in Gulu called something Cafe- Coco, Caca, Khaki, something. So we found our nearest friendly bodaboda driver and proceeded to attempt communication. "Excuse me dude who doesn't really speak much English, we're looking for a place we don't really know the name of, any help? They serve coffee there, coffee- its a drink like tea, it comes from beans, it's very dark, it makes you (pantomime wide open eyes and spastic behavior)." Believe it or not this eventually worked. Kope Cafe (like when you greet someone in Acholi: "Kopango" then he responds "Kope") , it's just around the corner that way- branch by the petrol station, slope down. 1 steak sandwich and tasty cup of joe later, time to uhh figure out how to get home.

Intermission #1
(Young Aga, grandson of Veronica, nephew of JB)

In a rational world this would have been a good time to hit an ATM, since we spent most of our collective scratch on accommodation (I know someone in Gulu, we can stay there for free), food (you buy lunch, I'll buy dinner), and beer (you're charging $1 for a beer? I refuse to pay). Unfortunately, there are certain days in Uganda when there are lines stretching around the block at every single ATM. Intuition tells me that these days should roughly correspond with the 1st and 15th. It's not exactly the case, but I think it has something to do with the salaries. Anyway, so due to the fact that every ATM had a line like effing Space Mountain we decided to just take our chances and just head since we had to get to Lira before dark lest we get abducted by witchdoctors. I had received a call that morning that on a friend's bus ride to Gulu, they got a bit delayed when they hit a guinea fowl which blew up the windshield of their bus. The first 3 rows got covered in feathers and blood. So probably we we shouldn't push the envelope, because things tend to happen around here.

The next part the story Pat already told, so I'll kind of gloss through it.

We arrived in an oddly abandoned taxi park to find out that the Lira bus already left and we'd have to take a taxi. We get in a taxi which then immediately leaves, like a quarter full. This never ever ever happens, so I was 5% sure that by the end of the day a witchdoctor would be in possession of my internal organs. Shockingly enough, everything went ok- sort of. We're on the road in total comfort, a whole seat to ourselves. Then the taxi stops. "Ok, guys you get out here, we're going to Kampala." Umm ok? If it's gonna be like that I'm only going to pay half because you only took me halfway. Fair's fair. So there we were stranded, lost and hopeless in some 3 shop village on a rutted dirt road between two places no one has ever heard of with no cellphone reception and like $20 between the two of us. Oh yea, and we don't speak Acholi.

Intermission #2
(Eddie, Pat, Luke, JB)

We hitch a ride on a truck for a while, all's cool. Back in Lira. Good old Lira, just as we left it. Hot? Check. Dusty? Check. Preschool with picture of dog-attack on the front? Check (top of the page). Good, everything's as it should be. Speaking of Lira, I think we talked about the pool that was supposed to open "next week" the entire time we lived in Lira. No surprises, next week is the big day. Allegedly, the reason for the holdup was National Water and Sewerage. They had a fully built pool the whole time and were waiting for the water company to bring up their water, but they were slacking. Sounds about like the status quo as far as Ugandan governance is concerned.

Since Lira was so awesome, we decided to hop the night's last taxi to Mbale and take our chances getting in before dark. This taxi was decidedly full by the time it left, the 14 persons limit on the side must have some kind of rounding error. Including children, I think I counted 35 at one point. I had two grown men sitting on my lap a la a certain bearded mze in red pajamas.

At this point things get a little fuzzy because the taxi stopped probably every 2 miles to either let out or more often add on people. Oh plus I forgot to mention that we were pretty thouroughly hung over from "trading off buying rounds" (AKA I'll buy one beer then make a huge scene about the nicest hotel in the state overcharging by roughly 15 cents per beer) with this Rasta all night. I remember at one point a chicken attaching Pat's foot, and him being so smashed in with people that he couldn't summon enough footroom to kick the little devil and teach him a lesson. I remember the dude next to me eating chicken then wiping his hands on the back of the shirt of the guy in front of him. I remember getting to Soroti and the taxi that told us it was going to Mbale I guess decided that the trip was over. Ok, but I'll only pay you half since you only took us halfway. Fair's fair, next please.

We got into Mbale by maybe 10pm. We left gulu at like 11am. Long day. Luckily the wellbe back committee was ready for us.

(Musa, you got a little something on your face there champ)

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