Arriving amidst the chaos of Kampala, Uganda, I was able to accomplish all necessary business activities: changed dollars into Ugandan shillings, purchased a 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 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 favorite lines 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. 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, 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 near the tires. The driver pulled over as smoke started to rise from below the bus. As we filed off the bus, the woman behind me was in a real hurry claiming our bus was on fire. It wasn't, though the billowing puffs of smoke were not reassuring. And so began our 4.5 hour wait in the middle of northern Uganda.
About twenty men lingered around the tire giving their opinion about what was wrong and how to fix it. After an hour, the tire was removed, its inner structure banged on with a pipe and stuffed with rags, more banging on something, and I think a wrench was involved. I have no idea. But, I did learn a lot about Ugandan agriculture and the importance of genetically engineered seed. I also learned about a bakery in Kampala, by the head baker himself. He was trained years ago by Greek volunteers visiting Uganda. He has since attended trainings in Iowa and Minnesota. There was a lot visiting among us as we watched buses whisk by. The drivers smiled and gave an encouraging thumbs-up. We waved and smiled back. Finally, a new bus arrived (for us)!
Our driver drove like crazy to make up for lost time. I feared 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 by African standards. I arrived at a little hotel—Slumberland—in Arua, Uganda.
It wasn't until ten o'clock that I made it to the hotel’s buffet, and after heaping spoonful’s of fufu, salty green vegetables, potato chips, fish sauce, and some sketchy meat, I sat down at my table just as the electricity was cut. Best meal ever.
TIA – This Is Africa, and I love it!