Sometimes adventure finds you, and sometimes you seek it out. The latter kind of adventure tends to be followed by the much dreaded 'you wanted it and now you got it' qualifier. Well today I took the most harrowing bus ride of my life to the city of Gulu, accompanying two social workers from the UJV. As described far better by many far-ranging white folks, third world bus travel trumps the work of every theme park ride designer, horror film director, and psychotic dentist the world has ever known. It's like an eight hour near death experience with the sorest ass you've ever had thrown in for good measure.
And then I found myself in Gulu. As described earlier, Gulu is the center of the ethnic region of Acholiland, the home of the Acholi people, the center of an armed rebellion against the government by the Lords Resistance Army, home of a million internally displaced refugees, site of countless atrocities, and the origin of the kids at the UJV in Kampala. The UJV staff are here to make contact with any remaining family or guardians and assess the state of their situations. I am not sure why they let me come, other volunteers at the UJV wanted to come and were declined.
Gulu is a chaotic frontier/war town, much like one might imagine Peshawar, but in the middle of hot scrub land, surrounded by several hundred thousand refugees in Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps. I might have found myself in the most desolate, hard-done-by place on earth. I'm terribly far from home, even my surrogate home at the guest house in Kampala. Instead of cheerfully yelling 'Hey Muzungu', these people stare at me suspiciously. The streets are covered in trash and are crawling with military (not police). Due to recent stability, Gulu is experiencing an 'NGO Boom' as attested to by the ubiquitous UNICEF and WHO marked trucks. Up to 70% of the population here is fed by food aid.
Tommorow I go to my first IDP camp. I wanted it, and now I'm going to get it.
(pictures to follow)