First day in Africa

Posted 18 June, 2007 by janette in Kampala

We wake to the sound of lunatic laughter. We assume it belongs to the troupe of vervet monkeys that roam the compound. Later, we find that it comes from a couple of birds the seem to specialize in primate call impressions.

Yesterday, we left a place that is grey, industrious, and often joyless. Today, we begin our 5 weeks in a place where life moves slowly, in technicolor.

Everything about our room is wonky: the mosquito nets are positioned awkwardly for the two tiny beds; the windows are too high to see out of; the door faces the bushes rather than the courtyard. Our $15/night buys us only jail cell chic, but in Kampala, there is no reason to stay indoors.

The streets are delightfully chaotic. A scooter zooms past with twenty chickens tied to its back; another one has pineapples strung across it like christmas lights. Larger, newer 4x4s honk smaller cars out of the way, and giant petrol tankers, in turn, clear them off the road. The are no painted lines, no sidewalks, and only 5 traffic lights in the whole of this capitol city. Bodas (scooters) offer a 700 schilling ride into the center of town, and Matatu conductors hang out of windows, calling out their destinations.

Nearly everyone stares at us, but they will return a smile. Shoe shine boys frown at Graham’s ridiculous shoes. They are amused at our insistence on walking everywhere and eating Ugandan food. They are even understanding when we are 100 shillings (about 5 cents) short for the “African plate,” featuring matoke with groundnut sauce, cassava, pumpkin, Ugali, chapati, Nakati, and stewed chicken.

This is Kampala, the pearl of Africa.

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