Although I have been to Gulu before, there were many things that I noticed this summer that I didn’t notice my first time here. My impression of the town has definitely changed since the last time I was here. The first time I arrived in Gulu I remember being overwhelmed by the differences between Gulu and the cities in the United States. This time however, these differences no longer overwhelm me because I was expecting them this summer. Some of the most noticeable differences were with the roads and the buildings. These differences were most noticeable because they are the ones you can see immediately when you arrive in Gulu, but you are also reminded of them every time you walk or drive through town. Unlike the United States, Gulu does not have stop signs, yield signs, stop lights, or really any traffic right away rules. In the United States, traffic rules are taken very seriously and we get tickets for simply turning into the incorrect lane. Because Gulu has a lack of these traffic signs and rules, I was surprised to see that they have a driving school. In addition to differences in roads, there are also differences in buildings.
The buildings in Gulu are very close together and don’t really have parking lots or parking spaces in front of them like the more spread apart buildings in the United States do. I also noticed that walking is a major mode of transportation in Gulu. Coming from Dallas, a city where most people drive cars or take public transportation (buses and trains) to every destination, it was very different to see so many people walking to every one of their destinations, especially when the walk was a pretty long distance. People from cities such as New York City or Chicago may be less overwhelmed by these differences because these cities tend to be more compact and walking is also a major mode of transportation.
Aside from these viewable differences, I also noticed that greetings are very important in Gulu, and very often people will greet you just as you pass them on the street. As I mention this I realize that we may get more greetings from people simply because we are “mzungus”. In Dallas people are friendly, but often times people keep to themselves when walking and are mostly focused on their own agenda rather than interacting with others. Along with these interactions, I also noticed that people in Gulu will say “sorry” to you when you experience any sort of mishap. For example, if you are walking down the street and trip over a ledge, almost everyone around you will sort of mumble “sorry” under their breath or even say it directly to you. Many people also say “you are welcome” in the sense that they are happy to have you in their shop or happy to see you, not in the sense of a response to thank you. Another specific detail I noticed is that in Gulu, “to let,” which is placed on buildings, is the equivalent of “to lease” in the United States. I was really excited that I was able to discover new things about the community we were staying in.