Arua alive with noise both night and day. Becky Sedgwick now back in the UK provided a wonderful and descriptive piece.
Sitting on the cool verandah waiting for Eric, our driver, it occurs to me that the town here is never quiet. There are the sounds of nature but never far away are the sounds of life. What I assume are crickets provide the permanent back drop to the dry leaves rustling in the trees; over that is the constant bleating of goats, which run fearlessly everywhere, even the main roads. But there’s also always the sounds of people – chatting, singing, playing music. Africa – at least Arua – is always alive.
Just travelling between the guest house and the college, there is so much to see! Arua is a large town, and like all large towns, full of commerce. But the majority of shops and workshops aren’t in smart buildings, but anywhere the owner can find a space. So there’s a motorbike repair shop just by the pavement, the dark oil stains on the road bearing testament to the business’s longevity.
There’s an undertakers set back in a small square of buildings, with the purple coffins on display by the roadside. The barber’s also offers mobile phone charging; small restaurants line the highway. As we pass the old golf course you can see laundry neatly laid out on the grass next to the river – whether that’s a business or personal laundry I don’t know. There are boda boda stops, with drivers waiting for passengers laid flat out asleep on mats on the floor. Ladies walk down the pavement balancing on their heads trays of cling film wrapped watermelon and mango for sale.
There are dress shops, mannequins lifted out onto the roadside with beautiful dresses on display – how they keep them clean in such a dusty environment I have no idea! There’s a builders merchants with bricks, what looks like roof tiles, and concrete pipes out for all to see. There’s what I assume is a scaffolding business with long thin tree trunks stripped of their branches – as we pass, they are busy strapping two 5m long poles to a bike for the journey home.
Bikes and motorbikes are most people’s form of transport – if they are fortunate enough – and we are constantly amazed at how much one bike can transport. As we drove here, a man pedalled laboriously along, with a 1.2m high sack of sweet potatoes strapped to his back – the weight must be phenomenal! It’s also common to see bananas hanging from each side and the back of bikes – not just small bags but great bundles. You also see planks of wood strapped across the cross bar, meaning the width of the bike can exceed 3m! And our most unexpected sight was one of the purple coffins strapped to a bike. And set back from the road are the dwellings, which range from gated compounds with security guards, rifle on back, to collapsing tukuls with barely dressed children running around.
Written by Becky Sedgwick