To get off the beaten path you need to leave the path. Coaches Across Continents is officially off the beaten path. Pader, Uganda is not listed in Lonely Planet, Fromer’s, or any other guide books. It may never be reached by any tourists. Even by African standards, Pader is an extremely poor village that relies almost exclusively on agriculture. It has high unemployment, inflation, and poor infrastructure with limited electricity and occasional running water in the nicest buildings. To get here takes over ten hours from Kampala, the last 100km over a one-lane, pothole-laced dirt road because the government cannot be bothered to complete the highway into town.
Pader also happens to be recovering from the atrocities fueled by nearly fifty years of violence, bloodshed, and civil wars wrought by Idi Amin, the National Resistance Army, and most recently (1991-2006) Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The violence between the LRA and government forces displaced nearly 1.6 million people in Northern Uganda and the LRA abducted over 66,000 children to serve as soldiers for their campaign of violence against the Acholi people. In short, Pader and Northern Uganda has been a society utterly destroyed by decades of violence and almost unimaginable atrocities. For the past five years it was a United Nations Emergency Zone filled with NGOs and aid programs like War Child, UNICEF, World Food Bank, and countless others.
At present, Pader is a town at rest. It’s people have had their fill of violence and are working to recover and rebuild their society through programs like Friends of Orphans (FRO). Led by former child soldier Ricky Anwar, FRO is a Coaches Across Continents Hat-Trick partner. We will speak more of our partnership and work with FRO in our next blog, but in honor of our high school English teachers, we will now compare and contrast our recent July 4th weekend here in Pader with a normal July 4th weekend in the USA.
A Tale of Two July 4ths
|Fireworks||An explosion of stars and the Milky Way when the power cut out (again) at 9:00 p.m.|
|Called/texted/FB updated our friends.||The four of us hung out for an hour after dinner (We ate whatever they had!) telling jokes and stories.|
|Talked to dozens of friends and family at the neighborhood BBQ||Talked to 300 primary school kids who spoke broken English (“How are you? I am fine!) at best.|
|Pot-luck means a choice of hot dogs, burgers, ribs, salads of all kinds, and desserts… oh the desserts.||Put luck means you’re lucky to have a pot! We chose wisely from the one option – goat stew with chips and bottled water.|
|Traveled to view fireworks in a luxury SUV with CD player and leather seats.||The four of us sat on the back of four boda bodas (motorbikes) hired for 1000 shillings each (about $.40) as we navigated the five km to our next primary school|
|Flirted with members of the opposite sex.||Had a man ask Nick and Brian, “Mzungu, can I have one of your white women?”|
|Played Frisbee and set off sparklers in the neighborhood park.||Stayed strictly on roads and paths for fear of setting off unexploded land mines (Fact).|
|Left the babies at home with a babysitter||Met Rob, the biggest naked baby ever playing in the street.|
|Toddlers cried when they saw and heard fireworks for the first time.||Several toddlers cried when they saw a white person for the first time.|
|from the organized parking lot to the top of a grassy hill to view the fireworks.||Took a one mile walk with a crazy lady on a dirt path as we headed home.|
|Rode in comfort for 10-minutes to the fireworks display.||Took 10-hour drive from Kampala to Pader on a disintegrating road.|
|Hot tub, hot-water shower, hot-water shave, and multiple bathroom visits.||Cold-water bucket shower and flushed toilets once per day.|
|Smiled when we saw hundreds of fireworks.||Made hundreds of youngsters smile, wave, and say “bye mono!” (mzungu)|
|Thought about how great it is to be American.||Saw first-hand the progress made by FRO and learn of their amazing organization and how great it was that Coaches across Continents was able to help make a difference.|
|Come home exhausted to air conditioning, a shower, and the TV on.||Came home exhausted to a room with no electricity or water and mandatory mosquito nets (with holes) to prevent malaria.|
Other than that we cannot think of any other differences to spending the Fourth of July in the USA compared to Pader. It was just your typical holiday BBQ weekend. Needless to say, we have all had the most memorable, and honestly the best Independence Day weekend ever. We hope you did too