Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Along the road

This morning the sun was still hidden behind clouds as I made my way to work along bumpy red/orange dirt roads. I stick close to the left side of the road, following a well worn foot path. Along the side of the road is low lying green vegetation, full of thorns and perhaps snakes. There are others walking in the morning hours, some dressed smartly for work, others on their way to school hand in hand with their kids. The majority are on bikes or boda bodas (motorbike taxi). Boda boda drivers slow as they approach me, do I want a ride? I decide to continue walking, taking the opportunity to get a bit of exercise.

Boda bodas zoom past, honking as they approach. Cars (mostly trucks with four-wheel drive) tear down the roads, stirring up an unbelievable amount of dust in their wake. Bikes share the road more gracefully, some bike side by side conversing on their way into town, others transport a friend on the handlebars or back of their bike. One bike passed by with large chunks of meat protruding from a wood box on the back, another balanced a large sack of charcoal ready for the market.

Although storm clouds and a cool breeze swept in in the afternoon, the sun returned in time for my walk home. As I walk I seek shelter from the sun's strong rays in the shade of trees that line the main street through Gulu. Just down from the Acholi Inn, a group of men in uniform followed by men handcuffed to one another emerge from the court house, and quickly disappear into the distance as they march towards the prison. Taking an alternative route home, I am met by a constant stream of children and youth returning home from school. Dressed in identical blue pants and white shirts, or for the younger ones blue dresses and bright purple shirts, the children walk in groups, only a few carry bags or papers in their hands.

Two young girls follow close behind me, repeating a quiet plea for money. They are hungry, they tell me. Along a road particularly rife with large potholes, a group of cows and bulls suddenly emerge from a field. Now I follow the girls as we dash out of the way. Turning onto Kitgum road I part ways with the young girls, and at once I am met with the smell of mint growing on my right and the fumes of a truck passing on my left.

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