Hi friends, I had a rather bumpy journey here yesterday but not as bad as I thought it was going to be when the pilot asked us all to stay seated with our seat belts fastened low and tight! All’s well though. I was met at the airport by my Ugandan ‘son’ Alex, his friend Hannah and her foster children two year old twins John and Gracie – they are gorgeous!!!!
We spent the night at Banana Village, a lovely guest house in Entebbe as it’s not good to travel here at night especially if you are a Mzungu!! Then it took us give hours to do a journey that should take half that time. The traffic was horrendous! Even worse than Poynton traffic, haha! Actually a great deal worse!!!
Travelling from Entebbe airport and through Kampala you see the two extremes of life in Uganda. Modern high rise office blocks, tall elaborate mosques and posh housing and not far away shanty towns where you can witness children who should be at school rummaging in the piles of rubbish and in the gutters for anything worth a few shillings. I think plastic bottles make up a bit proportion of their finds! I wish I could help them all but I don’t think I could work in areas like the shanty towns as although the people of Nakabala village are just as poor the area is so much nicer! There’s not a chance to grow your own food or even breath fresh air in the poor areas in town.
It’s always an interesting journey and at the speed we crawl along plenty to witness. Cows grazing on one side of the road as men in smart suits are working on offices. Modern expensive cars vie for each inch of road beside the numerous motorbikes cutting in and out with barely a hairs breadth between them. It’s not unusual for the motorbikes to touch the cars as they squeeze passed!
Pedestrians risk life and limb trying to cross the road dodging between the cars and motorbikes which dodging to avoid each other, are almost bouncing off the car bonnets! There are marked zebra crossings but I don’t think anyone knows what they’re for! The roundabouts are the craziest though, everyone for themselves! I find myself breathing in as if it will help Alex’s car get through easier! I’m not kidding, I don’t know how there are not a lot more accidents! I go very quiet during these periods not to distract Alex but he’s as cool as cucumber! Needless to say Alex locks the car doors as snatching from cars is a regular occurrence in places like these!
The whole journey from the airport to the other side of Kampala is buzzing with small family business selling cheap plastic items from China, toys, kitchen utensils etc etc. All are brightly coloured but none last longer than a few weeks and never come with a guarentee of any sort! Numerous manikins display dresses with slim waists and out of proportion hips, hips are sexy in Uganda!!
I saw one man today carrying a pile of plastic washing bowls on his head, a water barrel hung from one arm and a big waste bin from the other, both tied on with ‘string’ made from torn plastic bags! One guy on the back of a boda was carrying a full size ladder which stretched up high! His t-shirt said ‘Electrician’! I was hoping there wouldn’t be any low hanging cables!!!
As we make slow progress tradesmen carrying tall structures with shirts and ties make their way to car windows. Others with numerous household objects on their heads trying to earn an honest living come right up to the car windows. A bit scary the first time it happens to you but now I just smile and shake my head, keeping the windows closed of course!
Even children as young as 7 or 8 beg you to buy one of their few pairs of flip flops probably picked from the waste tips and slightly older children sell packs of chewing gum and bottles of soda from their small supply. They all make their way up the road between the cars and even when there is a spurt of movement and relative speed they run towards the oncoming traffic to try to sell! Frightening! They should be at school but, young as they are, are probably head of their families who depend on them to earn a few shillings for food. Going to school is just not an option for them! It so annoys me, actually upsets me to know that not far away after members of the corrupt government who live in sheer luxury! I wish I had the courage to go and knock on their doors (that of course don’t belong to them!) and scream at them but I would be thrown in prison without a second thought, and probably not allowed back into the country again!!
Ladies sit right on the verge of these busy roads selling the few fruits and vegetables they have managed to grow. Often they have a child sat nearby hoping to be offered a coin. What a life!
The markets we pass are full of stalls packed with bananas, mango, sugar cane, and vegetables like matoki, cassava, sweet potatoes, cabbages. The sellers will have come from the villages surrounding the capital. You see men with back barrows of watermelon pulled high and others with pineapples hanging from their bikes!
In the very centre of town you get the big banks with notices outside such as ‘Reserved parking for real people’! Not sure if I qualify!!
Overcrowded Mututu taxi buses (I call them suicide buses!) surround us with signs on the back saying things like ‘Sit back and relax’ and ‘Real men love Jesus’. I know when I have to use these vehicles I just close my eyes and pray! As the Mututu stand in the jam near by many faces peer down at me. I smile and either get a return smile or a swift turning away!
A cheaper ride can be obtained by hopping on one of the open topped trucks but standing room only! I think you need this form of transport crowded so the passengers support each other!!
Rows and rows of Boda men, the local name for motorcycle taxi, sit in rows on their bikes waiting for a fare. There is now a rule that they have to wear a helmet but many wear them not fastened or just on their handlebars! One boda man wore a t-shirts with the sign ‘Safe Boda’ but he wore his helmet on the seat in front of him!
Along all the main roads as well as the roundabouts, women dressed in high viz jackets and safety helmets but with no shoes, were brushing the kerbs right beside the sometimes fast moving traffic! Horrendous!
When we pass the Mandala Stadium where the Cranes, the Ugandan National team play, I knew we had escaped the worst of the jams. Its always a relief to leave the city and head towards Jinja where the roads were surrounded by tea plantations and sugar cane fields. By now we were all tired and hungry so stopped at the road-side service station we call the BBQ. Now this is an experienced in itself!! Usually Alex reminds me to put my window up as we are approaching but forgot this time. All of a sudden young men and women dressed is a blue uniform pushed handfuls of roasted chicken legs or beef on long wooden sticks into my face! Also roasted banana, freezing bottles of soda and water all crammed through the window at the end of many arms! I sat back and very still and demanded that Alex place the order and do the bargaining! Five chicken, five banana and three Coca cola. Total cost 25 Ugandan Shillings, £6!! And they were yummy but I had baby wipes at the ready!!
One consistent thing about Uganda is that there is always a layer of brown dust over everything. Even the smartest car or poshest building does not escape the dust! I call it clean dust as it is not a sign of unhygienic practice’s, is just the way it is in Africa!
I’m now staying in Jinja for a few days where the breeze off the Nile and Lake Victoria is filling the air a little. Tomorrow I travel to St James to assess the situation then I have meetings with the School Management Committee on Monday evening.
I have Alex and his friend Hannah for company along with two gorgeous twins who ate keeping me on my toes!
I feel as if I have been here for more than a week not just a day, as I feel so at home. Missing my hubby though, always do but we’re in touch every day.
Thanks for all your support for St James , especially during the difficult time this year.