Weekend May 11-13
This weekend, the four of us travelled to Kampala where we met up with a connection of Peter’s, and explored the city. We left on Friday around 10 AM. At the bus park in Masaka we were fortunate enough to have found our way on one of the larger buses known as a “coaster”. The other options (people’s personal vans, cars and mini buses) did not seem as professional. However, professional in Uganda has a different meaning than in the United States. Professional for a Ugandan bus company means that you are more than welcome to bring on live chickens. We were graced by the appearance of a chicken on our bus. It was fantastic.
The ride to Kampala was simple and painless with the help of a few friends we made on the bus. They informed us on what stop to get off and what to expect in Kampala. Before going to Kampala, people told us that it was busy, busy, busy and sort of crazy. These were understatements.
We arrived in Kampala, driving past Gadhafi’s national mosque, and entered the bus park. We spent about 20 minutes trying to escape the hectic “bus-park” and we couldn’t help feeling a little shocked. After staying for a week and a half in a relatively small city and visiting tiny villages while with Kitovu, the chaos of Kampala came as a surprise to all of us. Have you ever played that game (Blocked?) where you have a rectangle and you have to move the pieces to get to that rectangle across to the other side? Well, that’s a similar idea to the bus park…x 1000 rectangles. Buses were lined in seemingly no order and even as near adults, we felt a similar feeling as being lost in a store unable to find your parent. Our parent in this case was Robert and we were finally able to meet up with him right outside the bus park.
Robert, an amazing young man of 25, goes to school at Makerere University and studies drama, music and dance. He is outgoing, unbelievably friendly, a talented musician and our new friend. He was our guide for the weekend.
First impression: while walking through the streets of Kampala, the setting could best be described as “mass hysteria” and that this city makes New York City look rural. Similar to cities in the United States, Kampala was the most diverse place we’ve visited so far.
Robert guided us through town on that Friday, initially taking us to his Uncle’s place of work. His uncle was kind enough to let Robert borrow his car for the weekend so we wouldn’t have to rely on the unreliable boda-bodas. From there we went out to lunch and headed to our hotel to get our things packed in. We left the hotel to visit Makerere University, Robert’s school. It has an impressive 90,000 students, approximately 4.5 times bigger than Northeastern University. He showed us the campus, we met some of his friends, and in all, it was an eye-opening experience to see such an amazing university in Uganda. On that Friday night, we went out to a local venue for a concert of some classic Ugandan jazz music. The venue was nice and perhaps most importantly had amazing grilled goat meat that we snacked on until the concert started. Although we arrived at the concert around 8:30 PM, the main performance did not start until 12AM. Thankfully, other “lesser” musicians performed before hand to keep us entertained. Although we understood not one single song and we were on the verge of falling asleep from exhaustion, the music was easy to listen to and since then we have heard some of those songs on the radio.
Saturday was chalk full of events Robert planned for us. Our day started slightly later due to the unfortunate appearance of rain, and we left our hotel by 10 AM with Robert. We went to some shops in the center of Kampala and we left within an hour to go to Entebbe to visit a Ugandan wildlife center. This was one of the most interesting “zoos” because they used the natural environment as all the animal’s areas. We also made some friends at the zoo, or at least tried to make friends with the monkeys that ran freely around the forests there (as one monkey gave Peter a swift slap while sitting next to him).
From Entebbe, we went back to Kampala, stopped for the usual lunch of matooke, rice and beans, and shopped once again. The craft stores in Kampala are interesting, and although at times we felt awkward, Robert made a point for us to try and negotiate to a lower price because they always sell to muzungus at a higher price. Robert continued to show us around Kampala, and later that night we visited a club called Amnesia. It was an interesting experience, not just because it was the first club we visited in Uganda, but because of the large amount of people from Norway who were studying dance at Makerere. Although Robert, like most Ugandans we’ve met, seemed to have an unlimited supply of energy and could have stayed out until the sun was coming up, we forced him to make it an early night.
Sunday was a more complacent day and we enjoyed an easy return to the bus park and said our sad goodbyes to Robert, although we made plans to see him before the end of our trip!