Week 13: Uganda

Preface:  I have many friends who have come to Uganda and loved their experience and the country.  I hope that I can go back to Uganda one day because my time there this time around wasn’t great.  However, I have heard people talk about places I love negatively and know how upsetting it is.  I usually just think to myself, “they really don’t understand.”  Therefore, I will try to refrain from being one of those people “who just doesn’t understand” in this post and look forward to returning to Uganda one day hopefully.

Cosmas and I got up Thursday morning and headed toward the Kenya and Uganda border. I checked the Uganda website and it said that Kenya residents (which I am) do not have to pay anything, but normal US citizens must pay $50. Thus, I made it to the immigration desk and was asked where my money was. I told them I was a resident of Kenya, the man asked where my money was and eventually I got to meet with the supervisor. The supervisor explained to me that although I am a resident of Kenya I am a US citizen and would have to pay the $50. After making a fuss, I budged and got out $50 in Kenya Shillings. The supervisor said that they do not accept Kenya Shillings. Luckily, I thought this might happen and had already gotten some Uganda shillings, so I got out $50 in Uganda Shillings, but the supervisor told me that they don’t accept Uganda Shillings either, only US dollars. This is the point where I asked, “you don’t accept your own currency?” No, they don’t. Therefore, if you are ever entering Uganda make sure you have dollars. So, Cosmas ran ahead and exchanged $50 of Shillings for Dollars at a painful exchange rate and everything was squared away. We got on another matatu for Kampala, the capital of Uganda, and I was grumpy for half an hour before I got over myself and my small problems.

Kampala is a bustling city that is extremely busy with people going every which direction and reminded me of ants marching.

From Mfangano

There are fewer wazungu in Uganda and so I was stared at from the moment most people laid eyes on me until I was out of their sight. In Kenya, the children will all run out and yell “mzungu!” as I walk along, but in Uganda the adults do it more than the children which I found odd. Cosmas remarked that “everyone was staring at me” which I found odd because on Mfangano I would have 10-20 children following me down the road whenever we went somewhere.  Thus, there were A LOT of eyes on me. On a cute note, most people don’t speak Swahili in Uganda, but the word Mzungu is Swahili, so some kids were a bit mixed up and called me “chachungu,” “watungu,” and anything else that kind of sounds like mzungu.  This spiced things up a bit and made me smile.

I believe the main issue we had in Uganda was that our contact in Kampala was on a retreat so could not help us.  Therefore, everyone we interacted with was a business interaction. On Saturday after we arrived at the bus stop to take us back to Nairobi, our contact called and ran over and took us out for sodas and was a delightful man. He has invited me back and I really hope that I have the opportunity to return to Uganda as a friend and not a customer.
Cosmas and I then embarked on a 17 hour bus ride from Kampala to Nairobi which left at 3 PM Saturday afternoon and arrived in town at 8 AM Sunday morning. I chose the seat in the very back row with the aisle for leg room (again) which was a good choice for my legs, but a bad choice for trying to sleep. At one point I dozed off for a few minutes, but quickly found myself 3-4 ft off my seat from a big bump which taught me it was a better idea just to stay awake the rest of the ride. We arrived back to Nairobi after being away for exactly 2 weeks and for the first time Nairobi/AEE really felt like home for me which was really nice.

First Sighting of the Nile River

From Mfangano

Wow. It's Quiet Here...

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