When I moved to Gulu at the beginning of this year, I surprised myself. I had been ‘in between gigs’ for a while and so when an opportunity to do business presented itself, I took it. I was excited to try something new altogether, something outside my mundane freelance lifestyle. I was terrified at first because I did not have any experience in business but I was encouraged by friends and family to go a head with the plan. The plan being, to open up a nail and beauty bar to provide manicure, pedicure and facial treatment services in Gulu. (there’s no a single one out here). I had no skills in this kind of business whatsoever and so I enrolled for a short course in manicure and pedicure. Once I was done, I packed my bags and moved up north.
Before I moved here, I had visited a couple of times. My significant other comes from here (that explains everything huh) and so I had to see his hometown. My first time up here was amazing, I fell in love with the simplicity of this little town and I have been returning ever since. Having endured a two decade long war that nearly destroyed it, Gulu is slowly but steadily, getting back on her feet. You can get almost everything you need here. (Emphasis on ‘need’). There’s a couple of supermarkets, retail shops and a main food and clothes market. We also have cafes and bars, clubs and lots of restaurants with a variety of dishes including Indian and Ethiopian. When I do go out, I like hanging out at BJs, a quiet bar on the outskirts of town popular for it’s Thursday quiz night. The TAK youth centre is another fun hang out with lots of cultural activities, film screenings and small festivals. Also there’s always a house party being thrown somewhere by the locals and the foreigners.
On the flip side though, the electricity in Gulu is unstable with power going out every two or three days and when this happens the peace and quite is disturbed by roaring generators which can be extremely frustrating. Also it gets really hot during the dry season but right now it’s raining a lot and I like it. Besides the power situation, Gulu is a pleasant town. I like that fact that things here are not as fast paced as they are in the city. I love waking up and getting to the nail bar within five minutes. There’s no such thing as traffic here. The only traffic I saw happened last month when the president was in town for the grand opening of the new main market and it didn’t even last that long. It cleared almost as soon as he left.
My favourite place in Gulu is the new Gulu plaza. It’s the first of it’s kind here, with various outlets like a cafe, a crafts shop, a hair salon and also different offices for different organisations. It also happens to be the same building where the nail and beauty bar is. When I’m not busy with clients I like hanging out at Cafe Larem which is just next door. They have the best food in Gulu town and I’m not just giving them a shout out because I use their WiFi. Their food is really good. If you’re ever in Gulu, I would recommend their pork chops or sandwiches or anything on their menu, really.
I’m also in love with the traditional Acholi dishes especially the millet posho which is called ‘Kal’. Oddly enough, it is also one of the staple foods from my home village and we call it ‘Akaro’. I also like ‘bo’ and ‘Malakwang’ though I’ve failed to eat ‘Okra’ which is almost everyone’s favourite. I’m also learning Acholi which is by far the hardest language for me to grasp. Luckily, I know enough Swahili to get me by when the Luo fails.
When I’m not working, I like to go running with my new friend Robina who also happens to be a professional trainer and is also the masseuse at the nail bar. We normally work out at the local stadium nearby or go swimming or to the gym. It’s amazing the number of things I have gotten around to doing now that I’m not in the city. Last month Robina and I volunteered for one of the NGO’s in our building during a workshop to educate young girls on self esteem and communication skills. It was an amazing experience.
I also met Ieasha Tiffany, an amazing stylist from New York who asked me to model for her African collection. I was so nervous at first but I got comfortable as soon as the photographer started clicking away. I look forward to dressing up more ( I have zero fashion sense) and trying out different styles. That photo shoot was just the boost I needed.
Moving up here is the best thing that has happened to me in a very long time. I feel healthier, mentally, physically and spiritually. I have more time for reading and writing and thinking. It’s also exciting meeting new people both foreign and local. It’s really amazing being out here. I really don’t miss the city that much except I miss my people. But when I do get home sick, I come down for few days and then I head back. Other times my freelance gigs come calling and I jump on the next bus to the city. I will eventually return to Kampala once the business is fully on it’s feet. But for now I’m enjoying living in Gulu, everything seems to be working out fine so far and I’m loving every minute of it!