In the Pearl of Africa’s capital city

July 10, 2009

A couple of weeks ago we took our first trip to the intoxicating capital city since our arrival at site, the first real break since trying to move to the village for the last two months.  Determined to make the most out of the trip to the All Volunteer Conference in Seeta, about 10 miles in the outskirts of the capital city, we embarked on the two hour journey a day early to the bustling city center.  Kampala.  The world of noxious smoke, the white & blue taxis, the marabou storks, the trouser-clad women, the cell phones, the high-heeled shoes, the men in denim shorts, Game (Uganda’s Target), the cappuccino, the crisp dosas, the Chloride Exide solar outfitters, the African horn bills.  Kampala, the city on seven hills, really sits on at least hundred hills when you’re a pedestrian visitor exploring the concrete jungle.

If you happened to find a hotel on Kampala Road, the one that showed us the naked guy running away from mob justice, then you are also that unlucky one to find out that the city never sleeps.  Getting advice from an elderly Indian hotel employee on the evils of cohabitation and watching his relief when he learned we are married reminded me of my concerned parents worrying that we might land into trouble with the police when we check into a shoestring hotel traveling as the white & brown team in India last year.  Those cops on raids, the safe guarders of the moral compass, might mistake us for a white dude on LSD visiting the sandy beaches of Goa and picking up a local girl to attain enlightenment.

The next day when Fractal attended a meeting at the Peace Corps office, I spent an hour nervously holding my arm out for the Peace Corps Medical staff who wanted a blood sample.  Hesitant in pricking me more than once, the three nurses, on my insistence, took turns drawing my viscous blood.  “Are you drinking enough water?” they asked.  The next several hours Fractal–also quite a paramedic–reminded me to hydrate myself.

Over the falafel sandwich and the cheese burger (Fractal’s first in years) and a mango & passion fruit smoothie, we caught up with our host sister Michelle and her husband in the food court of Garden City Shopping mall.  “We miss your mother,” we tell Michelle. We talked about our desire to visit her mother after we move to our new place.  She told us about her work at the state-sponsored television network, his video production takes, their daughter’s birthday party.

After the three and a half hour visit, we boarded a taxi for the hour odyssey to the Hotel Kabeka in Seeta.  Welcome to the alien planet of hot showers, tiled floors, running water, porcelain bathtubs, indoor toilets, and complimentary conditioners; despite the shine & shimmer, the varying heights of the stairs with its unaligned rails was somewhat precarious.  Someone used different tape measures that were several centimeters off from one another and just didn’t think anyone would notice the poor calculations.

The next few days the veteran volunteers taught us about organic gardening, healthy nutrition, creating newspapers in their schools, traveling in Africa, planting trees, and sanitizing water.  During meals volunteers talked about their trials, tribulations, likes, and dislikes of working and living in the pearl.  A few new volunteers shared frustrations about settling into their sites, and others from our group shared how thrilled they were when their sites turned out to be better than they thought.  Some discussed what more they would bring if they were coming to Uganda as a new volunteer.  Camp towel, skirts with lining, stainless steel knife, and flip-flop Rainbow sandals.  A talent show and a cultural show entertained the nights.

Rejuvenated and enriched after the three-day conference we got back before sundown on Sunday.  Ready to find a welding generator to finish the rest of the work in the house.  Ready to move to the village.  Ready to start the work we came here to do.


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