Catch up- Day 49/50

Posted on April 23, 2012


It’s been 7 weeks since I last my Uganda friends. This afternoon (Saturday) I arranged to meet Richard and his wife Teddy. As I loitered outside the shopping centre on Entebbe Road, I was approached by Boda guys; the God squad; letchy men and begging children. In typical African tradition he turned late: an hour and a half late and grinning from ear to ear, knowing full well he’d be reprimanded by me.

We hugged tightly before I ripped into him. Both of them gave me the once over and commented on how dark I’ve gone and that I looked well, but that I’d lost weight.

“Trust me it’s not intentional. I am eating a heavy starch diet (potatoes; cassava; rice, maize flour, chapatis) and the same portion size as the guys at camp, but I’m trekking 50km a week in the heat so the weight is not staying on. Note-to-self ladies:  quickest way to slim down and tone up – a month in the jungle.

Little baby Balabyekubbo looked at me intensely with his big brown eyes. No screaming this time. Perhaps it’s my colour change. He is so adorable.

“So I have to ask you,” I said taking off my rucksack and planting a kiss on Eloy’s cheek. “How would you describe the women who hang out in the Capital Pub in Kabalagala?

“Sluts!” Richard said bluntly.

“Ok then. That about says it all.”

“How did you end up there?” asked Teddy, his wife, gently rocking their son.

“I went with a bunch of people I met at the hostel.”

“And how did they know to go there?” enquired Richard.

“It was recommended to them,” I said.

“Ah-haaaa.” they both chimed.

Turns out the place we went on Friday night is notorious for loose women, hookers aside. Surprisingly I learned that a large number of the girls are university undergrads. The reason for their skimpy attire is because they think this is how everyone in Europe and the States dress and they base this assumption on films and TV programmes. Lord knows what they have been watching.

I vented about stressed I was over my visa experience. Richard looked me squarely in the eye and said: “If you had put down $20, it would have been sorted out then and there.”

I considered this option. If it had worked out fine, but if it backfired I could have ended up in more trouble than I’d bargained for. So in the end regardless of the messing around, I’m glad I hadn’t considered a bribe.

We spent a brief 40 minutes catching up before waving goodbye and agreeing to reconvene again in 6 weeks’ time before I fly back home.

I rushed back to the hostel in the middle of rush hour traffic – to get ready. Tonight’s date has been in the diary for the last month. While I was in Budongo I had promised the students that I would take them out for dinner in Kampala before I left and if we had the energy we’d go dancing as well.

On the way back to my room I saw the Westminster Boys.

“So, how was the rafting?” I asked.

I was met with a mixed reaction, the Brit and the Russian said it was an experience they never wanted to repeat. The Albanian was very quiet, the American said it was great and the Indian, didn’t go. I think the hangover clearly didn’t help the situation and there was some admission of vomiting through the day. “Why didn’t you just climb into a washing machine, it probably would have been cheaper,” I laughed.

They survived and this evening I think they are planning an early night – bless!

At 8pm I jumped in a cab to meet Ricky, Herbert and Carol (the camp’s vet). Sadly Nancy couldn’t make it as she went home to see her daughter in Gulu, fair enough and Isaac had only just returned to camp after 10 days with this family. I left the choice of venue to them and they decided on Nandos. Unlike the branches in the UK this is decorated like a fast-food outlet. You sit on cheap plastic chairs, tiny square tables and the fluorescent lighting is harsh. The menu while hardly extensive is a bit more than your family bucket at KFC. You are given proper cutlery, plates and the food isn’t that bad at all. We chowed down on spicy chicken, rice and salad, slurping cocktails of fruit juice. The bill for the four of us was under £35 quid – bargain. Another friend, Rachel who I met two years ago, also joined us briefly for a drink and a long-awaited hug.

Next stop – a nightclub. We dodged the traffic and jay-walked across Kampala Road. The Ugandans were keen to see if I could dance. What they failed to remember is that I have West Indian blood running “tru me veins”, of course I can bloody dance.  The music pumping out of Amensia or Amens7ia filled the street. Tonight 80’s night, woo-hoo, this should good. The DJ played the most random selection of choons I have ever heard. His repertoire of the decade was clearly slim, so spinning on the decks was Shabba-Ranks, followed Beyonce, hard-core reggae, rap some R&B followed by Rick Astley and Peter Andre (Mysterious Girl!). Herbert who scrubbed up really well, turn up in a suit……looking slick. He’s serious student, quiet mannerisms, you already know about his appetite and his political views, but I had him down as a bit of square. Nothing could prepare me for Herbert ripping up the dance floor and busting moves I never imagined he had in him. He rocked! It was a great night and we all managed to get home to bed at a respectable 2am.

This morning (Sunday) I’m tired. Christ, two consecutive nights out and still getting up at 6am is taken its toll on me, I’m not as young as I think I am. I’ve been in-putting data this morning very slooooowly. Good job I am going back to the forest tomorrow, early bed and a slower pace.  City life, no matter in which country brings out the party animal in me, I love staying out till the wee hours: just ask The Northerner.

This afternoon I had an injection of culture. My other friend Richard Kavuma met me at the Uganda Museum and we went to a photographic exhibition called Brothers in Arms.  The rain pounded the streets and I was glad for the shelter inside. The photos were taken by a former UK journalist, Kate Holt, of the unrest in Somalia, she embedded with some of the troops and visited refugee camps in Mogadishu as well some of the areas worst affected by the conflict. We were also treated to some African music afterwards by a woman called Alice who played the local drums and an unusual string instrument. The sound was magical. She even allowed me to have a go. Next, The Observer newspaper (it’s another opposition paper) in Uganda. It’s circulation is growing but it’s competitor The Monitor has been in existence for much longer. Richard was recently made the editor.

On my way home a text from the boys. What are you doing for dinner? I definitely wanted to eat out. The food at Red Chilli is limited. In the end there was a division between the group where to go so The Russian and I went to Mish Mash alone.

The place is in the city centre, serves Mediterranean/tapas portions of food. We ordered two fresh pineapple and passion fruit juices, a chicken Caesar Salad, stuffed tomatoes and carpaccio of smoked Nile Perch with capers and red onions. It came with rye bread and hit the spot. The venue is an art gallery run by a British guy. There are some wonderful paintings of Kampala adorning the walls which are all for sale. Outside an enormous screen fills the garden in front of picnic tables and a large bar. Films are screened but by popular demand football matches are the big puller here. It’s a place I definitely recommend and I will come back to in 5 weeks’ time.

It’s been an interesting week here in Kampala and I feel like I’ve been here so much longer given how much I’ve stuffed in. I’m travelling back to Budongo at 1pm with Ricky and Carol on the link bus. I’m looking forward to going “home” I’ve missed the forest. But I’m pleased to say I’ve really enjoyed my week in Kampala it’s amazing how good company can turn around a trip, it’s good for the soul and I feel recharged and ready for my leg of my adventure.