journey to juba: the hedgehog incident

the journey to juba continues:

after arriving in gulu on thursday evening, we three travelers trekked across town to book bus tickets to juba the next morning. we were told that check in time was at 4:30 a.m. (yes, a.m. morning hours. the first part of the day that is not night. ugh.) we contemplated staying awake and then going to the station, but proved how sane we truly are by actually attempting to get some sleep before facing live that is not horizontal and sleep-tinged at that ungodly hour.

we trudged into the kitchen for coffee around 4something, had some breakfast and piled into sister rosemary’s car around 5something. (the fellow we had purchased the ticket from the following evening had said he’d call if we weren’t there, so we were banking on that and the fact that public transportation is rarely on time in these here parts.)

sister prayed as we left the compound, imploring god for journey mercies–and she dropped us off at the kampala coach station.

you’ll never guess what is directly next door to the kampala coach office in gulu. tired of guessing? i’ll tell you: a pub. a packed and hopping pub/dance club/bar/whatever. its called the buganda pub and the music was still BLARING and the dancing going strong when we arrived. yikes.

after declining the option to sit inside the office (in my opinion it was too stuffy) we were given chairs out on the tiny veranda–where we plunked down for several hours.

in the mean time we were provided with ample opportunity to people-watch those who were coming out of the pub and all the things that happen in gulu around 5something in the morning.

enter: the hedgehog.

there was a man who had something in his hands. he wouldn’t have been different from all the other men stumbling around outside the pub except that whatever it was that he had in his hands was attracting the curious attention of several other grown men. watch with me as the scene unfolds:

the little circle of men slowly inches into a tighter circle, with a reverence usually reserved for 6 year old boys and toads, and the man of interest hands his beer to one of these other fellows. he then slowly bends down and gently places what he is holding onto the ground, picking up the end of a piece of rope.

let me interrupt myself here to mention that it is still quite dark around this time, and the rope is the easiest thing to pick out, as it is lite in color. all i can really tell is that something round-ish has been placed on the ground, and that a short piece of rope is attached to it in some fashion.

the crowd of men, slowly growing in number, stand stock still–watching the little round thing–waiting for it to do something.

about to look away, i happened to just notice some movement from the object on the ground, my interest is re-piqued and i strain my eyes to make out what the mystery object is.

i don’t know if the light changed, or if i just willed my eyes to see better all of a sudden, but it was like when you stare at one of those hologram puzzle photos, and suddenly the picture pops out at you. all of a sudden i realized that the little lump on the ground was a hedgehog. an adorable, petite, hedgehog. THOSELITTLELEGS! so cute.

at  about the exact moment that i realized what the animal was, it came out of its playing opossum pose and righted itself on its insanely adorable little match-stick legs and painfully precious little feet, prancing about in a circle. all of the grown men watching continued to react in an endearing 6 year old boy sort of way–laughing, ooing and ahhing over this little creature, slapping each other on the back like they played some part in the creation of this little spiked-beast.

we three had a great time watching the gathered men, as well as the beady-eyed little ball of adorable. sobering the mood (but not the people), the hedgehog felt threatened again and curled up into its little ball position, waiting out the craziness.

most of the onlookers disbanded, distracted by other things or simply losing interest. the owner of the hedgehog scooped it up again, gently petted it (as is a good idea with hedgehogs, as they have little spikes all over their body) and carried it around for a while longer.

the owner was clearly displeased that the hedgehog had decided to call it a night: he kept holding it at eye level, i suppose thinking this would encourage it to open up and have a little conversation; or make it feel less threatened and uncurl itself. nada. little thing was as tight as a roly-poly.

after placing the hedgehog back on the ground and securing the leash in his hand, the owner did something that was a little sad: he poured some beer on its back. presumably this was to wake up the hedgehog, or shock it into opening up. or perhaps the little hedgehog is a lush? i guess i’ll never know the true answer to that conundrum…

except, the hedgehog did not open up to receive the beer offering. so it was a failed attempt. having totally lost his audience by now, except for we three looking on–but i don’t think he knew we were enjoying the show–the owner of the hedgehog looked dejected, giving the little animal a soft nudge with his shoe, perhaps in a last attempt to wake it from its terror slumber.

alas, the hedgehog remained tucked up.

hedgehog-owner apparently then needed to go somewhere where he couldn’t take the hedgehog. (i choose not to speculate) so, in renewed adorable-nature, he takes the little leash and ties it to the underside of a wire cart placing the hedgehog right in the center, away from feet that would trample it.

after tying the hedgehog and starting to walk away, the owner turned around every step or two to be sure that it was still alright; checking for as long as he could still see it from all the way across the street.

the hedgehog sprang to life a few minutes later and was surveying its new little area. the pub was closing down for the night, it was now around 6something in the morning and the sun was beginning to brighten. i was pleased as i could get a better look at this little animal, but less pleased that we sat up that entire time and the bus still wasn’t there!

we may or may not have oohed and awwed over the little beast as it trotted around testing the limits of its leash.

it was at this point that i my attention was drawn away from all things cute when i realize that my plastic bag of snacks and my water bottles had been lifted from under my chair. i did what we all irrationally do in situations like this and searched and researched my little 2foot x 2foot space i was occupying hoping that i was overlooking a full cavera. i wasn’t. and that was a total bummer.

lost in the bag were two water bottles that i adored–one from HB that had even made the journey to egypt  and my month in kenya, and one from EW that i didn’t even have a year yet–a lovely birthday present lost to someone who would probably not appreciate the thought and care that went into choosing and shipping them half way around the world–or the memories that they held for me.

and my hobnobs. the bastard had my hobnobs. insult to injury, people. insult to injury. sigh.

there was a brief moment of discussion among my travel compaions about attempt to either steal or purchase said hedgehog to give as a “host/ess” gift to our friends in juba. sadly, this never happened and we arrived sans host/ess gift. pole.

stay tuned for tomorrow’s episode:

journey to juba: the passport photo incident [crossing the border]
with a special side of tales of a less-than-awesome bus ride to the border…

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One thought on “journey to juba: the hedgehog incident

  1. Hedgehogs! My brother Tom had a pet hedgehog for a number of years named Zoë whom I adored! The little leash sounds so endearing 😀 Bummer about the food and water bottles, though. I can add hobnobs to the list of things to bring!

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