The nights in Karamoja are simultaneously the quietest and loudest nights I’ve experienced. There is no freeway two blocks away, only anomalous cars driving along the main dirt road, no neighbors twenty feet to either side of the house and no airplanes flying over head. That being said, we have at least 5 different types of cricket (couldn’t figure out exactly how many, all searches with the words “Uganda” and “cricket” came up with match scores for the sport), cicadas, bats that sound like our alarm clock, geckos, and noisy mechanical sounding nocturnal birds. Oh the abundant life in Karamoja!
Due to the relative human quietness, it alarmed me one night when I heard a large crowd of people going on long into the night. When the hubbub began, I feared that there was a raid or some local crisis. However, it continued, grew louder, and drums joined in. At one point in time I could discern the crowd chanting in unison what I thought was “Go!”. So my fear subsided and my ear plugs went in.
The next day we asked the local employees what all the commotion was about. Their nonchalant response was, “They were jumping” and they went about their work like that was a self-evident answer. I, on the other hand, was rather perplexed by what that meant. What were they jumping over? Is that a sport in Uganda? Come to find out they were having a party, which apparently includes much jumping or dancing.
It all seemed well and good to me, until it happened again and again and one night at two villages on either side of our compound. (Those of you who know me, know that I like my sleep!) I decided the subject needed further investigation, so I asked again.
One of the translators from our clinic acted as our guide on an aforementioned hike. I took the chance to delve into what this jumping was. He informed me that someone just starts jumping spontaneously and then others join in when they hear the fun. It grows and grows until whole villages are jumping the night away. It can be a celebration of all ages or the local match-making venue. When I inquired as to the frequency of these “jumpings” and my wonder at how people get up and work in the field the next day, he assured me that it isn’t always like this. The people were jumping to celebrate the harvest.
When the rainy season is a couple months deep and the fields begin to produce crops of sorghum, tomatoes, and maize the people eat their fill. This may be the one time of year that hunger is abated and people have the energy to stay up all night jumping it away. So they celebrate. Who wouldn’t?!