Kampala – Day 1

We all woke up fairly early this morning (to be expected when you fall asleep at 8pm and your body has no idea where it is) feeling a whole lot better than I think most of us expected. Again not hard when you’re comparing how you felt coming off 38 hours of travel. Most of us roamed around the grounds snapping photos of the sunrise and the mist over the little valley in front of the property. Then it was time to shower and dress for the day and to sample Red Chilli’s breakfast offerings. They were pretty good. Most of the kids opted for vanilla pancakes with lemon (a crepe-like offering that was well-received by all) while others had yoghurt and muesli (delicious) and a few tried more traditional sausage and egg breakfasts (also delicious) and the service was much faster than last night so we must have caught them at a weak moment then.

After breakfast we piled into the van and made the trek to a local – very upscale – mall to exchange money and get SIM cards for Marie and I (Marie so she can keep in touch with work and me so I can update this blog while we are away from the cities – and wifi). Marie and I purchased plans giving us unlimited talk time and 30gb of data for 100,000 Ugandan shillings – about $30CDN. We also had to pay a 200 shilling per day tax to access social media – a tax which only came into effect on July 1st and which caught most of the country unprepared because no one believed they would actually do it. Paying it was quite painless technically but would be a burden on many people in Uganda where wages are still quite low but technology and social media are an integral part of many people’s lives.

While Marie and I were navigating the technicalities of getting a cell phone plan in a foreign country (much, much faster than at home) the kids exchanged their US dollars for local currency and explored the mall… including a trip to the frozen yoghurt shop (basically Koola for those familiar with them). The mall was definitely a bit of a culture clash when you compare it to the warren of shops and dusty roads outside… and for those not used to living in high security areas, being wanded and having the car and bags searched to enter was definitely out of the ordinary.

After taking care of logistics, we headed for a place no one was quite sure where it was but where a local NGO (Concern for the Girl Child) was running a weekend workshop for local girls. Being a Sunday there weren’t a lot of NGOs doing work on the weekend so this was a bit of a last minute addition after some earlier plans fell through. It was a good choice. Finding the place was quite the adventure in itself as we navigated through even more narrow, potholed and twisting roads than we had experienced the day before. Our driver, Patrick, is a master at squeezing the van (a Toyota HiAce) through the narrow streets while avoiding all manner of children, goats, bodas, trucks, vans and other obstacles.

Eventually, we found the location of the event… only to find that the place it was located (a local pastor training centre) had moved recently… but with the help of some boda drivers we quickly found the new location and were introduced to Robina – the organizer of the event. We were invited to sit in on part of the girls’ lesson on how to prepare for a job interview and were struck by the similarity of the messaging… although Marie (who is a Human Resources manager) got quite a kick out of the purpose of a job interview being described as an opportunity to “interrogate” prospective candidates… the kids thought that was quite an appropriate description. After the presenter was finished speaking we were asked to introduce ourselves and invited to stay for lunch – a delicious meal of fried chicken, baked pumpkin, sweet potatoes, rice and ground nut (basically peanuts) sauce… all cooked over open fires. The contrast of lunch preparation over open fires and the gleaming tiles, laptops and white boards of the classroom was striking…

After lunch, we made our way across town to the Baha’i temple (one of only eight such temples in the world). The temple is located on expansive grounds overlooking the city and was quite peaceful and serene (not to mention cooled by a lovely breeze). Baha’i is a new religion (1840s) that originated in Persia and has slowly built up presences around the world. The temple was very plain and unadorned save for a few Persian inscriptions, but the nine large doors that opened to the outside and the high roof paneled with stained glass made for a very welcoming and peaceful place. The complete silence was a welcome respite from the noise of the city (and a van full of teenagers!).

After the temple we made our way to a much more upscale part of the city. Partly to see a new, very upscale mall called Acacia Centre and partly so that Marie and I could deliver the clothes and food we’d packed for Caitlin and her friend Claire who are studying and interning here in Kampala for a semester abroad. The mall was even more upscale than the one we’d been to earlier – and was subject to even more intense security screening to enter. We met up with Caitlin and her friend Sam, delivered the backpack full of stuff we’d brought and enjoyed a gelato from a local bakery (thanks Craig) before heading back to the Red Chilli.

Back “home” we had a bit of time before dinner for a swim (refreshingly cold) and to freshen up, etc. before dinner. The resort was much more crowded tonight (locals come to enjoy the pool and the Sunday BBQ and it appears a couple of mission groups are camping on the grounds). But dinner came more quickly than last night (for us at least) the two women at the table next to us waitress 2 hours (so they said) to get their omelettes… after dinner we did a quick debrief of the day’s events and then headed off to bed as the jet lag seemed to be catching up to all of us.

In all, an interesting day – especially the contrasts between the upscale and much less upscale areas of the city.

2 thoughts on “Kampala – Day 1

  1. It sounds like you are off to a good start. A good nights rest and good food can make all the difference. Seeing the contrast between the upscale malls and regular shops and the tight security would be quite an eye opener I imagine. It must have been exciting to see Caitlin. I hope her itchy rash is getting better. I wish you another interesting day tomorrow.
    Karen Abel


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