I was hit with a really bad head cold on Friday and Saturday, so I was spent Saturday sleeping it off under the mosquito net. By Saturday night, I was finally feeling better, and sat outside my hotel talking to people who were passing by. I even attempted to fix someone’s busted cell phone, until I realised it was a lost cause.

Many of the most promising contacts that we collected in Kampala are not in town at the moment, which has been frustrating. My Grameen contact, Bernard, is out and about, and will not make it to Gulu for another few days. Others, such as our contacts from USAID and ACDI/VOCA are traveling, and won’t be back in town until the end of the week. While frustrating, it just means that I will have to shift into party crasher mode and drop into some of the various NGO and University offices around town.

As we were told in Kampala, Gulu is overstuffed with NGOs. Some of the people around town that I have talked to are quite critical of the NGO presence, and feel that many fail to address major problems such as lack of access to education. The larger NGOs are set up in what looks to me like fortresses – high walls, barbed wire, guards with guns. Several of the people I talked to mentioned that the NGOs mean well, but the money “rarely hits the ground.” One person told me that some of the larger NGOs have fancy cars and drivers for their staff, but won’t stop to help people in town when they need a ride. The walled off organizations on the outskirts of town (UNHRC, UNDP, FAO) definitely give off an aura of exclusivity, and provide quite an architectural contrast with the many tuckels (huts, pronounced “tookles”) that can be found in the center of town.

Acholi is one of the major languages of Gulu, the IDPs, and the Lord’s Resistance Army. From various people in town, I have learned to say “What’s up?,” “I am fine,” and “Thank You,” but my limited brain has struggled to remember more complicated phrases.

By the way, about radio: many people may have radios, they are all over town and the market, (I will find out more about radio listenership this week), but unless my brand new Grundig mini FM/AM/Shortwave receiver is broken, I can only get 4 stations from the middle of the city. What can people hear in the villages outside of town? Some of the stations are broadcasting the same content on multiple frequencies.

Finally, before I got here, I heard that Kenny Rodgers and Dolly Parton were cool in Uganda, but I could find no evidence of this in Kampala. However, I can now confirm Ugandan love of Rodgers and Parton after visiting the Havana Pub, a place recommended by locals. Sure enough, while American hip-hop blared, the video screen was showing vintage clips of Kenny Rodgers and Dolly Parton (and 80s-era Kylie Minogue??). Awesome.