On Saturday and Sunday I decided to take a trip to Kampala for the weekend. There I was to meet Paul, who is the Monitoring and Evalution Officer at St. Francis, and was up in the area to take some examinations that week. One of the first challenges was to figure out how to get to Kampala. You see there is no set bus schedule for when to catch a bus or even where! I started at the nearby taxi park near where I live in Bukaya. What is called a taxi in Uganda is actually a white or blue minibus with blue or white squares on the sides. So I wandered down there and before I said anything, a man asked if I was going to Kampala. I said yes and he shuffled me over to a partially empty taxi near the front. There we waited for maybe 25-30 min while the “conductor” hustled fares into the taxi. I learned that the taxi would not leave until it was full. I sat in front with the driver and was squeezed between him and another passenger. My worry is that my leg would accidentally bump the stick shift! When we left, it was an interesting process to see how passengers who let on and off. So as the taxi traveled along, the conductor would yell out and if someone gave a wave, the taxi swerved off the road and then proceeded to let on or off a passenger. Often times, the driver would just miss the edge of these drainage ditches which lined the side of the road. Even though the distance is about 75km, the trip took about 2.5 hrs due to the many stops and also the traffic jams that were near Kampala.
In Kampala, I finally met with Paul and he showed me to his hotel, the Fang Fang, which is owned by a Chinese family (there are actually a lot of Chinese now in Uganda). On Saturday, he showed me to the National Museum in Kampala which you can see some photos of attached. It is a small place and there is talk of leveling the museum due to low visitor interest. I thought that this was a sad idea since I did not know of another place that showcased the history of the various tribes and peoples of Uganda! Ironically, it is the Ministry of Tourism that has talked about replacing the building with a sixty story structure to house the East African Trade Center, according to The Monitor paper. The museum actually houses a huge underground storage facility which houses a majority of artifacts not displayed – including extinct species of fish once found in Lake Victoria. One thing that is not pictured is a section about the “Martyrs of Uganda”. In the past there was a local king, or kabaka, named Mwanga who began to fear the intrusion of Christianity in his kingdom. In 1885, he demanded that converted subjects renounce their Christian faith. When many refused, he had them burned alive. They became known as Martyrs and today there is a national holiday, Martyr’s Day, on 3 June to recognize them.
Later that day, I got my first haircut in Uganda. I went to a place called Garden City which is where a lot of Westerners go since it has cafes and shopping stores. I have to say it was one of the best haircuts I have had in a while and for only $8. It also included a shampoo and hair washing! We then went to a local bar to watch the English Premiere League football match. The teams playing were Manchester United and Arsenal. You see many Ugandans follow football (or soccer) and many favor English teams. The place became very packed as raucous as MAN U scored a goal (final score: MAN U 2-0 over Arsenal). It was fascinating to see and experience. That night I went home and enjoyed my first hot bath in Uganda which was very nice since I have not experienced hot water (unless I boiled it) in many weeks.
Overall, it was nice to get away and to eat some different foods and sleep in an air conditioned room! Pictures are posted. You might notice one of a massive amount of cars just parked near each other. That is the Kampala taxi park where one picks up a taxi to go all over Uganda. Quite impressive and stressful if you do not know where to go!