The semester begins for my Post-Conflict Transformation program in Northern Uganda but not before I had the opportunity to explore the local market and move in with a host family.
We’ve just completed our first week of the new semester and I am exhausted but excited for what’s coming up. Last Monday our class traveled from Kampala to Gulu, in the north of Uganda. It was a 7 hour drive and was not without incident when shortly after crossing the Nile River, our van was attacked by baboons! In a well-coordinated ambush, two baboons blocked our van by laying in the middle of the road forcing us to stop. When we did, two others came from the side and jumped on top of our van. They were after the pineapples we had recently purchased. Luckily they were tied down but one baboon still got away with a few big bites before he jumped off and ran back into the jungle.
After we arrived in Gulu, we had a few days to settle in before we each moved in with our host families. A few of the other students and I took time to hit the vibrant market where Joy and Devon both got dresses custom made and I bought a shirt. We all looked sharp in our new clothes when we met our host families the following day. I lucked out and ended up with a wonderful family just a few houses down from our school.
After spending the weekend getting to know our new families, school began the following Monday. One of our first lectures was by the Prime Minister of the Paramount Chief of the Acholi Tribe, the primary ethnic group in this region of Uganda. The prime minister provided an introduction to the Acholi and the role religion, community and clans played in the transformation post-conflict. Afterwards, we were treated to some traditional dancing and music by youth from the area. The “Courtship Dance” was energetic and exciting.
Over the next few days, we had lectures about the history of the LRA conflict, conflict theory and analysis as well as several site visits with a local organization that work with women and agriculture. It’s only been a week of classes but the immersive nature of this program has given me a great introduction to the conflict and the generational effects on health and well-being.
Next week we head to Kitgum, a small town near South Sudan, to the east of Gulu. In addition to a rural homestay, we will be conducting our first field research. Through interviews and site visits to local organizations, I hope to be able to better understand the relationship between HIV and conflict.