Arriving amidst the chaos of Kampala, Uganda, I was able to accomplish all necessary business activities: changed dollars into Ugandan shillings, purchased MTN SIM card and programmed our new cooperative cell phone, shopped markets and priced pedal and electric sewing machines, purchased an electric iron and my bus ticket for tomorrow morning, met a friend for lunch, and delivered demo Christmas ornaments to my friend Peter, a local Ugandan who represents another cooperative we work with.
EARLY THE NEXT MORNING
A new addition has been added to the GAAGAA bus line: an emcee. Yes! He stands above on the balcony and directs all employees and passengers below: brilliant.
My favorites included:
“Ladies and gentlemen, just look now at the bus arriving from Burundi. Let us thank God that they have arrived safely to us. Those of you waiting for your brothers and sisters from Burundi, now they are here, go and greet them!”
“Remember no chickens or fish on the bus. All chickens must go below and absolutely no fish, maybe but they must be stored below.”
“Those of your too lazy to load the bus, I am going to start charging late fees. I see you are going to Arua, so stop sitting on waiting chairs and please take your ticket to get on the bus.”
“Friends we have a situation here today. There is a young boy of just seven years, who was sent on the night bus to Kampala. He is to be received by his father this morning. Now, he is here waiting with me. His father may not recognize him because he left his child when the boy was only three years old. Can you believe it? Terrible, terrible . . . So let us join together and help reunite this boy with his father today.“
One hour into the ride, I felt a slight disturbance with the tire that I was sitting directly above. We pulled over to a gas station (of sorts) and the driver along with at least seven other men and bystanders started to pump air into the tire, and might I add: to absolutely no avail. Either there was no air to be pumped or the gage was quite broken. Carelessly, I watched the gage needle bounce around and listened as they discussed our current situation with very little concern.
Back on the bus, I was balancing my coffee when very strange noises started below. The driver was signaled to pull over just as smoke started to rise. As we filed off the bus, the woman behind me was in a real hurry claiming our bus was on fire. It was not, though I guess the billowing puffs of smoke were not reassuring.
And so began our 4.5 hours wait in the middle of northern Ugandan; not often found as one’s top choice of places to be stranded. I’ve a list and it certainly isn’t one of them.
About twenty men lingered around the tire giving their opinion of what was wrong and how to fix it. After an hour, we removed the tire itself and banged a metal pipe on the inner structure of the tire, and stuffed rags to soak up oil, and then there was more smoke, so we banged on another pipe and there was this wrench and well, I have no idea, but I did learn a great deal about agriculture in Uganda. In fact, if I were to receive genetically engineered seed from USAID, I would know exactly when and how to plant it. I also learned about a delicious bakery in Kampala, by the head baker himself. He was trained years ago by Greek volunteers in Uganda and has attended trainings in Iowa and Minnesota (mental note to check out this bakery). There was much visiting as we watched the countless buses whisking passed, whose drivers gave smiles and an encouraging thumbs-up. We waved and smiled back.
Our driver drove like a crazy man to make up for lost time. I feared far more for my life at this point than I did at the prospect of being stranded at night in a land of common banditry.
Overrun with motto-taxis, I asked one to find me a cab because I had far too much luggage even for Africans to toss on a motorcycle, well probably not but the hassle of it all would have taken too long. I arrived to stay at a little hotel—Slumberland—in Arua, Uganda because my friends who came to greet me had to return to Congo before the day’s end. They will fetch me tomorrow.
At 10pm I went to the hotel’s buffet, and after heaping spoonful’s of fufu, salty green vegetables, potato chips, fish sauce, and some sketch meat, I sat down to my table just as the electricity was cut. Best meal ever…
TIA – This Is Africa, and I love it!