Sunday in Gulu is rest day. So we traded in the trowels for 7 village bicycles (rented from owners attending a church service).
We discovered that a Gulu bike comes with optional extras; brakes, seats, power steering and sturdy gear structure. As Jano quickly figured out, she should have paid extra for inflated tyre tubes.
Our tour guides for the day were fellow builders turned Gulu guides, Steven and Patrick who took us on a one-hour adventure around town. We were a little unsure that the streets of Gulu was the best way to test our biking skills but found that navigating dirt trails, dodging motorbikes and working out Ugandan road rules (first in best dressed at a roundabout) was the perfect way to get us in the spirit. Guide Steven took us on the ‘locals tour’ to his own home and village where we met his nearby neighbours and then some more..nearby neighbours.
To paint the picture, a home in this area is a 3 x 3 circular hut with thatched roof containing a small charcoal cooking stove, a bed and small provision space. A whole family will live in a hut. There are about 4-6 huts in a cluster and surrounding this cluster is immaculately swept dirt.
We can say there has been a wonderful consistency with all who we meet in Uganda and the trademark ‘you are welcome’ greeting, big smile and friendly handshake is always on offer.
After the locals tour, we stopped by the local market and took in the sights and smells of local fish, edible white ants and shoes made from old tyres. T-Hen rose to the occasion in true style, purchasing a yard or two of fabric for home. Along the way, Rosco tested her inner BMX bandit by trying to talk to T-hen, navigate a mud dip and take in the local washerboards all at the same time but alas took a minor tumble and learnt quickly… eyes on the road in Africa.
Our lunch was held back out at Watoto’s Lamindera Village where we were welcomed into two family homes, one of which had been built by the 2013 team. The house mothers lovingly prepared a traditional feast of beef, chicken, rice and all the trimmings.
Bricks and mortar build a house, a roof provides shelter and a room a place to sleep but there is nothing quite like seeing children who have had a rough run in life welcomed into a family and this love reciprocated by a new mother that one can appreciate how a home can change things for people.
Before leaving the village, we had the usual bubble blowing frenzy and sticker stampede with the children. It all got a bit too much for one little soul, who soon fell asleep while cuddling sleep whisperer Nobs.
Next stop was Baby Watoto, an orphanage for babies aged up to two years. The facility was modern (by even western standards), clean, organised and well run. The children to house-mothers was a ratio of 4:1 and there are on site nurses for the children who are ill. The furnishings appear to be plentiful – highchairs, rockers and toys for all which alerts you quickly to the fact that these babies are among the lucky ones of Ugandan orphans.
First half of the visit was a tour of the buildings and meeting with different staff and children. The second half was the “fun” part – where we were able to hold, play and feed the babies. Nobs put her child whispering ways to use again and rocked three week old Jodie to sleep. Rosco found her quirky match in Jasmine, who thought it was better to laugh at Rosco than to eat (Pumpkin mash appears to be a universal staple for babies). T-Hen made friends with Paul and Denis for no other reason than it was amusing to be holding a child no more than 5 months old with a name which sounds so old.
We finished off the day with the regular debrief, a round of bells for all and a game of UNO. Another memorable day.