For Halloween last year, I was intending to go to Gulu town and celebrate the holiday appropriately with a bunch of inebriated, costumed Americans. Like many things, it didn’t go as planned. I waited for a mythical ride to town for hours, because I am a stubborn mundu who does not boda (motorcycle), and when it finally seemed like all was lost, I remained in my sriracha costume for a few hours and hopped around to music for a half hour before I fell asleep at 8:00 pm. True life: I’m sort of a dork. A lot of things are embarrassing in my life now. At least for now. But, I’m hoping that these embarrassing tendencies (like being in bed by 7:30) will evaporate once I hit the sweet soil of America.
This year Halloween is looking a bit more promising. No, I’m not going to meet the scores of inebriated Americans in my PC group in Jinja to celebrate appropriately, because that just ain’t my style these days. Also, it requires like 10 hours of enduring Ugandan public transport. Instead, I’m indulging in a series of fortunate events that have befallen me. Firstly? Both my friend Tom and I got packages in town yesterday, on old Hallows Eve. The contents are nothing short of marvelous. Fake candy teeth! Zots! Pop rocks! Chocolate pumpkins! Goodness! In Tom’s box, we received legions of fancy tea, hand sani, and other such mysterious contents. So on this fair day of Halloween, I have so far enjoyed fancy orange-chocolate tea, chocolate, and a high heart! A fortunate event to receive packages indeed, for these last few weeks have been challenging for me.
Besides these goodies, I have also done some strange things today. I tried exercising to a super lame exercise video called “Insanity.” If you know me, you know that this is absolutely something that I wouldn’t do in America. Well, I’m not in America, am I? So yes, I moved my tables aside and sweated and struggled to a series of improbable and physically impossible exercises, all done seamlessly by host ‘Sean T.’ But, the end goal was achieved: of being sweaty and tired. I have missed physical exercise and sports probably more than I have missed most other things my 1.5 years here. It feels so nice to be sore and tired- even though I did all of the exercises obscenely wrong and with horrible form. Things got pretty insane. At one point, I looked over at Tom to see that he had completely given up on doing the specific exercise right, and was instead just flopping around like a jellyfish and smiling. Then, I drank some red wine with a delicious spaghetti lunch. Also, a strange thing. The rest of the day will include more wine, curry, and a scary movie enjoyed while eating candy with good company. I mean, it’s no state street in Madison, but it’s a good second. I was supposed to go to work today, but because it’s been raining 98% of the time recently, I literally couldn’t walk on the roads-at least without serious risk to my rapidly diminishing dignity- and was told by several concerned community members to stay home. I love that the weather here actually affects you.
There have been some other unusual events occurring that seem worthwhile to explore. Mind you—no Hurricane ‘Sandy’ or presidential election. Apparently, around the border in my village, a teacher witnessed two grown men fighting over a grasshopper. Violently. This may seem even stranger than it’s intended to be, because since when do adults fight over grasshoppers? Well, here, grasshoppers, along with ‘white ants’ are a valued food group. And, now is grasshopper season. The teacher watched for a few minutes, and then left the men still fighting to come to school. So, on the eve of the jealous and surly Hurricane Sandy, this was my most valuable news. Did I mention that I lack a certain quality of stimulation here sometimes? I think that’s why people stare at me so much and are so fascinated when I sit outside and read; there is simply nothing else to do or talk about. Gossip is golden. Whenever ANYTHING vaguely interesting happens here; like news of a volunteer buying a fan, or a local goat getting into a fight with a dog, or a woman who may have turned into a serpent due to the treachery of a Sudanese witch doctor, it’s pretty much all I talk about for a week.
Speaking of vaguely interesting, I got a haircut from the one person in West Nile who knows how to cut mundu-hair. It turned out to be a reclusive Indian woman who stays in her apartment all day because she isn’t allowed to talk to other men due to her religion. It all went well, until I came home and realized that she had cut my hair into a mullet. Luckily, Tom handled that crisis by cutting off the offensive back-portion of my hair, and now I have really short hair again. Then, I cut off Tom’s entire ponytail in a fit of boredom, and now his hair looks like a super trendy hipster hair cut, without me even trying.
I have saved my favorite unusual event for last. Yesterday when we went to town, we really struck gold. It happened to be the exact day when the Arua police have either run out of money/are bored enough to bring the smackdown on all of the men and women who are illegally driving or operating un-registered or smuggled motorcycles. And let me tell you, there are many. Most people who have motorcycles smuggled them from Congo. Most boda boda drivers are young men without licenses. SO, on this particular day, the police set up a road-block in the middle of Aruatown and stopped/run down every motorcycle to check licenses and registration, and then impound or confiscate the motorcycles. It’s really fun to watch because most drivers don’t see the roadblock until they are right by it, and then either a. slow down with a resigned look in their eyes due to the inevitable confiscation of their motorcycle and loss of income, or b. awesomely and casually abort their mission once it dawns to them what is happening…this usually results in a sudden 180 degree turn and slightly increased speed as they high-tail calmly it the other way. I saw a father, mother and son on one motorcycle that turned around right before the roadblock, the dad grinning at his cunning. Or, c. as one brave soul did, upon realizing the immediate danger in their future, dodged the police by executing a series of daring and wild zig-zags and then hightailed it away with a cop running after him. The funny thing is that police doesn’t even attempt a good chase; they just kind of shake their fists and wait for their next victim. The best is the moment of realization that dawns on the faces of the motorcyclers when they drive right into the jaws of the lion: a real “Oh shit” moment. Lorries of confiscated motorcycles make their way to the jail, others can be seen driven by the very same policeman who confiscated them. Eventually, you notice the quiet, as most boda-boda drivers have now been alerted and the road is completely clear of motorcycles (which NEVER happens). It becomes rather pleasant to cross the street, rather than the usual exercise in existentialism. Anyway, it’s great entertainment, with everyone stopping amidst all of their errands and buying and selling to sit back, laugh, and watch the drama enfold.
I'm sorry to say that this blog has been largely influenced by the single glass of wine that I have consumed over the last 6 months.
And here's a SPOOKY and random photo of Athena eating a rat:
Love and Larks,