“Welcome Home! Well be back in Uganda!” Encore.
Elspeth Dugdale | November 3, 2018
Although Heathrow may be efficient and slick in many ways, but Entebbe wins every time for the positive passenger welcome. ‘Welcome Home’ was the just the first greeting from the airport official in yellow fever control – and so it continued, from the garage mechanics, the taxi driver, the guesthouse reception and the bank staff - not to mention colleagues and friends at WTA.
Resettling always takes a while. So, and in no particular order, some random observations from the first few days back….
There is a recently opened ‘expressway’ from Entebbe to Kampala, (it’s been under construction for years), and it is still astonishingly empty – for now. The journey time has shrunk from 1.5 hours (or 4 hours at worst) to 35 minutes. Admittedly there is a solid ‘jam’ on arrival into Kampala’s northern bypass but it’s still an impressive novelty.
Food prices have gone up noticeably in the last few months. From basics and staples to luxuries, everything costs more. One homegrown example: for the WTA Sunday lunch, the teacher in charge was debating whether the increased cost of fruit (40 pineapples) was affordable or not.
Yasin (taxi driver extraordinaire) is capable of bringing his passengers, (us!), totally up to date with the entire range of political, domestic, economic developments and latest corruption scandals in Uganda over the last few months. And all by the time we reach WTA. Fascinating.
Kampala has epic, dramatic sunsets – in between the torrential rainstorms. In certain areas, the city comes to a standstill as the roads become rushing, brown rivers of fast-moving water.
taking a cycle boda in the rain and still staying dry
Taking a 15 minute boda during rush-hour really does avoid being stuck in a car for 2 hours; maintaining intact kneecaps becomes a priority.
The boda school run - Lukomera style! Actually much safer than Kampala..
Getting an x-Ray in the UK can be a complex, lengthy process. The same task can be superquick and efficient in Kampala, providing there is no power cut, otherwise it can take two or three visits into town (as we discovered). The x-Ray printout costs £3 (15k), which is both ridiculously cheap or impossibly expensive depending on the finances of the individual.
Having a serious, electronic car problem means limping 50km into Kampala and waiting patiently (in this case, two days), for a genuine repair. But so worth it to avoid breaking down ‘upcountry’ on a remote road
Students will hijack any member of ServeDirect almost immediately on arrival, urgently requesting new basketballs and footballs and most insistent that they haven’t watched any films for weeks. The teachers generally tell us a more accurate version of events. But new equipment brings great joy, so it's always worth it.
Football on a Sunday afternoon
Lukomera power supply, phone signal and internet can be intermittent, on and off, annoying, unstable, infuriating – but often much better than rural Hampshire!
Agriculture, Literature and Computing O’ level papers are always at least a week later than other exams, resulting in an interminably long wait for over a 100 students to take that final paper. This is a real challenge and source of tension in a boarding school.
S4 girls revising outside inbetween exams
‘Smashed avocado on toast’ might be a trendy snack in some places. Here it describes an overripe avocado that fell from the tree and needs using up. A genuine superfood.
Well trained Ugandan dogs eat leftover curry, sour milk, mouldy bread, soggy Weetabix and avocado skins. Zero food waste. Hero dogs.
Plastic waste and rubbish drift and lie in heaps at the sides of the roads and in trading centres. Could Uganda ever adopt the fierce, successful ‘no plastic bag’ law in Rwanda?
So many people are ‘cash poor’. There is an alarming lack of cash in the whole country. Paying school fees becomes increasingly difficult. Collecting in school fees becomes ever more challenging. But, WTA must collect school fees to exist as a school, to pay salaries and to provide food. Everything is ‘squeezed’.
A brand new army of huge, shiny pylons are now visible from the main north road, leading in a very straight line from the new Karuma dam down to Kampala. Will that see an end to the frequent power cuts?
Mobile internet and a reasonably good signal even make it possible to type this article in the car on the way up to Gulu, (obviously as the passenger and not the driver!). This would have been unthinkable in 2007 - how (some) things have changed……sadly, some others have not.