Friday, January 7, 2011

First Day in Uganda

Written by Becca Waterloo

(the start of many long entries)

The smells are...different; that was the first observation I made the minute I stepped off of the airplane. I knew I was somewhere new because of how dark it was outside, too. The airport was tiny and we were really some of the only white people there. Getting to the hostel, we loaded into a dust covered van and drove on the left side of the road in the dark. We passed by guards after climbing up a driveway (hill). A man named Freddy was extremely hospitable to us, the first of hundreds of Ugandans during our few days there. He immediately handed our dehydrated, jet lagged bodies some beers and water. Our hostel was an open flow of air, which compliments the Uganda equatorial weather. I noticed later that I was never in a closed off space; they are so passive about their air there. It was addicting.

We were given a room with twelve bed cubbies to wrap up in, each of us protected in a netted entrance to our beds. Oh yeah, we were also given a couple of squatting toilets (or “eco toilets”).

Waking up after about 5 hours was hard, but worth it with our curiosity to see the city. I still couldn't imagine what Kampala would be like. We took a twelve seat passenger van back down the hill and the daylight exposed the light brown dirt ground with uneven streets, tons of Ugandans walking down the street, bodas, and vans cutting each other off with their horns. Bodas had three people on them, 12 stacked chairs, a refrigerator... The air was filled with diesel fuel and smog, filling my lungs, making it difficult to breathe already. We pulled closer into the city where bodas and people were passing directly outside our mutatu, selling things or just staring into our fishbowl. It was then I actually started to panic. I didn’t see one white person in a crowd of thousands of Ugandan locals. After a couple of days you learn to be careful with whatever you're doing, as there are more eyes on you than you think. To experience this feeling constantly would be hard. We were counting down to the moment all twelve of us would get out of our fish bowl and get into the streets of Kampala.

It takes so much coordination to walk in that city. Things to stay attentive to:

-uneven streets

-giant holes



-entrepenuers selling things

-pick pocketers (unfortunately)

-people yelling out MZUNGU! and sometimes grabbing your arm.

It was quite terrifying, and shocking. We had a buddy system though, as our pace had to keep up with the city's. All of it was hard, trying to keep up in the crowd while inhaling the fuel and the heat, coming from 0 – 30 – 60 into 80 degree weather. I think Jake took us there on purpose to give us that shock. It for sure worked; I could never see myself living in Kampala. Definitely Mbale though, I'll get to that soon.

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