Saturday, January 13, 2007

Uganda: The Good, The Bad and the Kampalicious.

1) The weather here is fantastic. The days are full of gorgeous roasting hot sunshine, that melt into cool nights. Here and there, the sky clouds over and opens into a powerful torrent of rain that produces wild, lush, green foliage everywhere. Not sure what the rainy season is like; it might be unbearable. All I can say is the little bit we’ve enjoyed has been heavenly.
2) The potholes here are astonishing. It goes far, far beyond the worst potholes I’ve seen in Minneapolis. Sometimes, entire sections of road have been completely washed away. When you ask people why they haven’t been repaired, they just laugh and shake their heads. The construction companies are largely fronts for corrupt officials to siphon off money.
3) In the markets the pineapples are piled up in little wooden trolley carts, and the smell is sticky sweet and palpable. They only cost .75 cents and are exquisitely good, juicy and a little citrus-y.
4) Flowers here grow with complete abandon. Yesterday, I came across an entire tomato plant flourishing in a sidewalk cracks in the middle of downtown Kampala. There are orchids growing in the ditches and papyrus going wild near the Nile.
5) Trash collection is non-existent and litter is abundant. Plastic grocery bags are floating around in the street, the bushes, people’s yards, the markets, the mud. They are everywhere, everywhere and never decompose. Apparently, in Rwanda, they have banned them because they have become such a nuisance. Some Ugandans want to do the same.
6) Women here wear a strange and wonderful national costume. It is a long tunic top with huge puffy sleeves and a voluminous skirt tied at the hips with a Japanese looking belt that hangs down the front. It looks so uniquely African and ladies who wear it look so lovely and dignified.
7) Taxis are cheap, cheap, cheap, even when you are getting scammed. The most we’ve spent so far was $50 and that was a two hour ride over deplorable roads. Eric and I once spent that in Chicago just to get home from the airport.
8) Electricity can be spotty. Generators are needed in every hotel and restaurant.
9) Dawas are a fabulous drink made with limes, ice, vodka and honey. Simple, delicious and my new favorite cocktail.
10) I’m far away from some of the people I love, but that’s true no matter where I live. Someone is always somewhere else.
11) The internet connections are terribly slow. Even the places with wireless connections seem to eek along. No downloading here!
12) Amazing birds are abundant. There are some living in the trees outside Casa Linda that have a very distinctive call. They sound at first like chattering monkeys, and it quickly devolves into something resembling crazy human laughter. They are black and white and have long tails and short beaks.
13) Samosas are delightful little fried pastries filled with potatoes and spices or meat and onions and they often come three to an order…perfect! One for me one for Eric one for Chris. Apparently they are an Indian invention, but every restaurant seems to sell them. So much for the Africa diet.
14) You’ve got to bargain for everything. There is a mzungu price and a black African price. We pay a premium for being white, but this is easy to be philosophical about. If I were the taxi driver, I would charge me more too. Besides, even if they charge me an extra thousand shillings, that amounts to about .50 cents. I think we can swing it.
15) They sell DVDs on the street corner. Six movies to a disk for two dollars depending on how well you can bargain. So far, we’ve enjoyed the Harrison Ford collection, the Colin Ferrell collection, the Nicholas Cage collection and the fourth season of “Twenty Four”.
16) Hot water by no means guaranteed. If choosing between being dirty or cold, I usually choose dirty.
17) There are gates and walls everywhere. Almost every building has a gate and guards who stand there all day just opening and shutting it for cars and people. Even the restaurants have security guards standing out front.
18) Five words for you: Six dollar full body massage. Word to the wise though, full body massage does not exclude breasts or bottom…
19) The Nile is an inspiration, you start to think about where it comes from and where it is going and everything that has happened and is still happening along its banks, and you can’t help but feel small and ant-like in the scope of time and place.

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