Uganda wasn’t love at first sight. It was smelly, my backpack got lost on the airport and I was nauseous for the first few days in a row. Not used to the tropical climate, food, and pace of the country, I felt lost. As a first time traveler, it was pretty … uhh, contrasty to arrive in Kampala. I never set a single foot outside of Europe, and I came in one of the most bubbly countries of them all.
Kampala, an error on my senses
Waiting at the side of the street of capital Kampala, my traffic light finally hit green. But, fast enough, I figured out that that didn’t mean I could cross the street in peace. Or in any way that my heart was not going to explode out off my chest. No one seemed to care about the traffic rules, but me. Slowly and carefully I put one foot before the other while looking in ten directions at the same time. My eyes were going crazy. Still, I couldn’t escape from the warmth of the exhaust pipe of a boda-boda (Ugandan scooter) almost burning my leg, while a street vendor tried to sell me some gum. Capital Kampala was a complete error on all of my senses. So far, I only tried to make it to the other side of the street.
Soon I figured out, that I was the weird one. In my opinion, crossing the street was life-threatening, while the Ugandans seemed to do it with their head lifted up. The beautiful women with their colorful red and yellow skirts were walking gracefully, while the men didn’t bother to stop and stare at them. Minibusses just found their way to move around the people, in charge of a full-time portion of tooting.
Finally arrived on the market, I found a constant smell of … yes, what actually? I was close to throwing up, while I was still tired of my jetlag. Except for a overload of veggies and fruits, I could buy live chickens. And furniture, clothing, fresh meat hanging on sticks and dripping on the sidewalk, parts of cars and iron roofs. Literally anything. I thought some kid was trying to sell me pee in a plastic bag. Yet weeks later I found out that I just missed out on an opportunity of zipping some tasty lemon juice. Uganda was driving me nuts.
Leaving busy Kampala
Soon after arriving, I decided to escape the rollercoaster of an African capital and I went inland. Stocked with some chicken and chattering women and businessmen with suitcases, I hit the road again. But this time from inside the minibus. Being cramped and packed, the bubbly, busy streets of Kampala changed rapidly into the green peace of the rest of the country.
My home for the next couple of months was a small village, nearby Masaka. Here I was showering with a bucket of cold water, with the sounds of tropical birds and a view over the banana fields. I didn’t have a toilet seat, nor proper electricity. But I did have a bed with a mosquito net, where I stepped in as soon as darkness hit the village.
The red dusty roads soon became my home and I got lost in how hilly green the country looked. No one ever told me that Africa can be so beautiful.
But beautiful as it was, I got lost in the people. There were so many things about them, that I didn’t understand. Their reasoning was often different than mine and time didn’t mean the same for them, as for me. “Mzungu’s are having the clock, but we have the time,” referring to the Western way of living, one of my Ugandan friends once told me. A meeting didn’t start at 8 when it was supposed to start at 8. Maybe it started at 9, or 10. Or maybe not at all, cause it was raining, or you just felt like not showing up.
Finally, I slowed down
This unpredictable way of living caused a lot of frustration but finally slowed me down. Worrying about tomorrow is nonsense while I couldn’t even plan if the market lady was going to be there the next day.
While life slowed down, it didn’t mean living in the village got boring. It was the sparkle in the brown eyes of the people, who made me feel more alive then I had ever felt. And then it hit me. After weeks and weeks of adapting, trying to understand, I surrendered. I accepted the fact that no meeting was ever going to be on the time it was planned and nothing was going to be as it was meant to be. No bus was driving where I wanted to go. No tomatoes were sold when I needed them. Water to bath came when it came and even my electricity was gone for weeks and weeks, cause some cables were sold to the neighbors. Only the sounds of the insects and the buzzing mosquitoes were always coming back in the night. Leaving me a persistent feeling of itchiness.
But I fell in love. Like love hits you unpredictably and doesn’t make sense. Uganda overwhelmed me like love overwhelms you.
I fell in love with the people and their joy. Their willingness to live. With creative minds and the ability to create businesses out of literally anything. Their curiosity about others and their ability to enjoy, when life doesn’t give everything straight to you. I was able to live in a community were the way of living was so different than I was used to. But Ugandans don’t leave you uncomfortable for so long. They make sure you feel welcome and home. And home it was.
ResiRest in Uganda
If you also want to experience the Ugandan heart and home, come to eat a meal with one of the families ResiRest can connect you with. You will see the spark, and you will taste the joy. Check out the places, families, and food in the free ResiRest app. Or, read more about ResiRest in Uganda right here. Eather in busy Kampala, or in other cities and villages, you will have a wonderful time.
About the author
“Uganda: from going nuts in Kampala to falling in love” is written by Jolande Louis. As a freelance text writer, she travels around the world and shares her experiences. Find more of her stories on her Dutch blog Mijn Reisparadijs. Photos are captured by Frederique Doevendans & Jolande Louis.