I’m sitting on my bed in a little guesthouse in the middle of nowhere outside of Lira, Uganda. Today was LONG. After eating a poolside breakfast we left our beautiful hotel (that we stayed in last night in Entebbe). Two drivers picked us up, Charles and Edward, in a big van and we loaded our luggage and began the 4-hour drive to Lira. We stopped in Kampala, Uganda’s capitol, and bought two phones, and then we continued on to Lira. About two hours outside of Kampala, halfway to our destination, we all heard a leaking sound…which of course turned out to be the car breaking down. We were near a small cluster of huts (it was large enough to call a village) and we got out of the van to look at the damage. Small children began to cluster around us and we played with them while the drivers attempted to plug the leak. About two hours later, the men had managed to temporarily fix the leak with grass and leaves, and they suggested we continue on to Lira. It is important to this story to understand that driving in Uganda has just about no rules, and everyone drives at least 80 miles an hour (on the bumpiest and most unpredictable dirt roads I’ve ever seen), so we were all slightly nervous, and for good reason, because the car broke down again about 6 minutes later. That time we had to wait in the dirt at the side of the road for over an hour until our drivers somehow flagged down a mechanic who happened to be driving by. He also attempted to fix the car, but didn’t have the parts so he hitch-hiked into a nearby town to find someone with the tools. He returned and patched the leak for us and we left again. 4 minutes in to our second attempt, we heard a loud “pop” and realized that the leak had come unclogged again (probably because we were driving 90 miles an hour over a field of potholes). This time we had much worse luck and after waiting for several more hours, some people stopped to help us. They wanted to try to fix it, but we suggested that they help us get to a nearby town instead to find a taxi, or someone with a working vehicle. The men ended up riding their small motorcycle (called a bod boda) into a village to find some rope. Thankfully they returned to us and towed our car into the nearest village where were able to arrange a driver to take us the rest of the way to Lira. Some time after resuming our trip, I noticed that we had been in the car for what was well over the 2-hour long ride that we were promised to Lira. When we asked the driver, he said we were half way there, so we should expect at least 2 more hours. I couldn’t believe it! By this time it was getting dark too, and we were advised not to drive at night, but we didn’t really have a choice.
The story does have a happy ending though. After a very long day, we finally made it to Lira. The headmistress of the school in Lira, Beatrice, met us at a gas station in around 9 pm and took us to her beautiful home (this was by far the nicest house I’ve seen so far in Uganda!) and she fed us peas, rice, chicken, and chipate, which is an African bread. We ate and then discussed our research plans and our visit to the school the next day. Finally, around 10:30 pm she drove us to a beautiful little guesthouse owned by her sister, where I am now (and where I took a bath/shower with freezing shower water and a small bucket of nearly boiling water on the floor).
Needless to say, this trip has definitely been an adventure so far. What an experience. It’s past midnight now, and we have to get up early to visit the school in the morning, so I should probably go to bed for the night. I’ll write again soon, and post pictures as soon as the Internet works well enough…fingers crossed that it happens soon!