Thursday, June 9, 2011

Updates from Kampala, Week 1...

Today marks our first week in Uganda, and the week's events have certainly provided plenty of topics to write about. As much as I enjoy flying and traveling, spending a day and a half in transit left me fairly exhausted and ready to arrive in Kampala for some time to unwind and adjust to living in Uganda's capital city. The group spent 2 1/2 days in Kampala taking care of a few logistical issues, namely getting cell phones and booking a safari for later in the month, and once these were taken care of we took the time to explore the city and hang out together. Some noteworthy happenings:

-A 2-3 hour adventure to find a hostel located about 4-5 miles away. Eager to stretch our legs and anticipating the hostel to be much closer than it actually was, we decided to walk to there. Unbeknownst to us, we were walking down the same road as the national stadium on the one day of the month when the Ugandan national soccer team was competing for qualification in (next year's?) African cup. Traffic in Kampala is horrific enough on a regular day (hundreds/thousands of vans spewing enough smoke obscure your vision if you are behind them, and then countless numbers of bike taxis weaving in and out of traffic (at first glance it looks extremely reckless, but after observing hundreds of what I thought to be near-collisions, I'm extremely impressed at how adept they are at navigating the traffic)), and the mass of crazed fans screaming, honking horns, and blowing vuvuzuelas made the situation all the more chaotic. We quickly tried to find an alternative route, and within about 30 minutes we found ourselves off our dinky travel book map and next no significant landmarks, as it turns out. We thought that the cattle slaughterhouse we were at would be an easily recognizable place for a taxi to pick us up, so we waited outside a gas station and called for a taxi. Then we waited for about an hour and eventually a gas attendant noticed we could use some help and arranged a ride for us. So, around 3 hours later we made it to the hostel.

-An unwelcomed visitor in the hotel room. Jeffrey, Grant and I split a three person room at the New City Annex hotel-conveniently located near the center of the city and with easy access to just about any modern convenience we could ask for. Despite the great location, the hotel itself was a bit dreary-cinder block walls masked by a thin layer of paint and window shades that couldn't quite hide the iron bars that would prevent an intruder (or escape?). I would not be surprised if sometime during the buildings history it acted as a jailhouse. The doors that could be locked from the outside further reinforced my suspicion. Though for 6 bucks a night it was a steal. So anyways, on our third and final night, unlike the previous two nights, we forgot to lock the door to our room, and when I noticed in the middle of the night the door was unlocked I could not find the key in the darkness , so I kept the door unlocked…Around 6 AM, in that state somewhere b/t sleeping and being fully conscious I sense the unmistakable (and startling) feeling of pressure being placed on the opposite side of the bed and the rustling of my sheets. I look over and see this rather large black woman, clothed only in a bath towel (fortunately it was a very large bath towel) positioned about 8 inches away from my face on the bed…Safe to say I did not see this one coming. I realized I was in a bit of dilemma, so I spent the next few minutes contemplating the various courses of action I could take and the moral desirability of each. . On one hand I could just let the situation be: The woman, now sleeping peacefully next to me, must have had a rough night and was in dire need of some sleep. Who am I to deny her that? Maybe I should just roll over, go back to sleep, and address the situation in a few hours. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…right? In her condition, I would probably want to keep sleeping.

On the other hand, I had paid for the bed, in essence it was my property for the night, and I therefore had the right to exclude her from use. And she is a stranger, and she's in a bath towel, and this situation is really weird.

Okay, in reality, I jumped to this latter conclusion almost instantly, and I ran outside waving my arms and trying to convey the urgency of the situation to the hotel maids who could not understand my English. After a few minutes of poking her to get up and summoning the gentleman in the room next to us (whom I am assuming she was with, though I did not ask for details) the lady left the room. Mission accomplished.

This entry is getting longer than I anticipated, and I hope it does not paint a bleak picture of my travels so far. Besides a few strange occurrences, I am having a great time and am thoroughly enjoying Uganda. I will discuss more about my internship, the great family I am staying w/, and any further adventures in my next blog.


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