As I mentioned in my previous post, Uganda is recovering from a 20 year civil war. We spent one night in the town of Pader in a remote district (Pader District) of northern Uganda. This area was right in the centre of the conflict and the people there suffered greatly. Until the truce began at the end of August, it wasn’t safe for NGOs (charitable organizations) to work in the area but now there is a strong presence and the process of rebuilding is evident.
There is one hotel in town where NGO workers/visitors would usually stay. Although I didn’t see the rooms, I suspect they meet a basic standard for facilities and security that most Westerners would expect. Unfortunately, due to a reservation mix-up, no rooms were available when we arrived. We ended up getting the last room in a guesthouse in the centre of town.
It was dark by the time we checked in to our little bare room with twin beds. A single lightbulb hung from the ceiling. There’s no electricity in Padar so generators are used in the evening when the sun goes down. The ‘lock’ was a bent nail on the doorframe, and ours was the only room without metal bars in the windows. Dwight, with McGyver like ingenuity though, fashioned a barrier out of plastic covered wire he had in his suitcase (go figure!) that allowed us to keep the window partially open. Thank goodness because even with it open, it was stiflingly hot in the room. On the plus side, the mosquito nets were in good shape!
The toilets were outhouses with key-hole shaped openings in cement that you perch above. I had gotten somewhat used to using these when we were in Ethiopia however these ones were not very clean. I decided I’d rather risk dehydration than use them more than necessary, so limited my beverage intake accordingly that night! The sign on the shower door, written in chalk…’DO NOT URINATE IN HERE’…spoke for itself. Water for washing was in a big rusty oil can that you dip a plastic basin in and carry back to your room.
We hadn’t eaten so decided to go look for food. At the front of the hotel we met two young women, one from England and the other from Australia who are in Padar for a lengthy stays. Having lived a pretty sheltered life, I am in awe of young women who bravely travel the world on their own like that. The one from England was writing a thesis on the re-integration of child soldiers, and the woman from Australia was in the area to oversee work with a charitable program she supports. They often ate at a little place beside the hotel and recommended the beans and pacho (sp?), which I think was cassava. It was good. Just as we finished eating, our CPAR host from the Padar office came by the hotel to see if we wanted to join him for dinner at a nearby restaurant. Even though we had eaten, we went along and enjoyed chatting with him. He’s a really nice, soft spoken young man who grew up in the region which, for almost all his life, was a war zone. The reality of that didn’t strike me at the time but now I think how amazing it is that such a lovely person can come from such a harsh environment…and there are so many lovely people there.
We went to bed around 9 o’clock. It had been an exhausting day. In the courtyard of the guesthouse a TV, apparently a new feature at the hotel, blared loudly. At the front of the hotel was a bar and pool table where a large group of men were assembled playing pool, talking, and laughing loudly. This went on until the generator was shut off at around 1:30 am. We didn’t get much, if any, sleep. Throughout the night every sound seemed to be right outside our room. I even heard continuous squeaking, coming from a large opening in the ceiling, which I think may have been bats. Again I was glad to have good mosquito netting! And interestingly, there was traditional chanting and the sound of drums beating in the distance for most of the night.
I have to admit I was a bit scared…in the dark without a sturdy lock on the door, in a remote area, in a part of the country where months earlier attacks by the rebel army were commonplace. You start thinking crazy things like…Do bats carry Ebola? Do all the rebels know about the truce…maybe they didn’t get the memo? Who would help us if something happened…why didn’t I ask our CPAR host for his cell phone number?
In the morning, everything looked a little bit better…except the outhouses! We woke up shortly after 5:30 am but had to lay in bed til around 7 am when the sun came up. It was too dark to see anything before that. After a “birdbath” in our room we were ready to move on to our next adventure!
Posted in Africa 2007 |