Monday, 13 September 2010

Billy's Ugandan Journal

Day 3 - Sunday 18th July
After the first decent night’s sleep in a few days we were all much more spritely and ready for day three of the trip. The accommodation we were staying in was much better than what I expected. I was very worried at first when I saw the amount of mosquito nets and precautions, but, they weren't as bad as first expected luckily. Although the room was very basic, it had all the necessary ingredients to make it homely and fit for purpose; 17 enthusiastic people from the Calder Valley.

The site we were staying at was entitled 'Red Chilli Hideaway', and was used exclusively for people visiting Uganda, so as you can imagine there was quite a range of nationalities present, all doing various different projects during there time in Kampala. Without doubt the biggest attraction (in both aspects of the word) at Red Chilli was the resident pig. Myself and the other six lads were especially amazed, constantly standing and staring at what truly looked like a freak of nature. It didn't take long either until we gave the beauty a nickname, David Hyatt I believe naming it 'Pigdebayor', presumably due to it's relation to the footballer Emanuel Adebayor, exactly what that relation was I do not know, but the name soon caught on. I can guarantee that this won't be the last you hear about Piggy...

We were using this Sunday as a day to adjust and acclimatise to our new surroundings before starting our project on the Monday. This was important, as we'd literally turned up to somewhere a million miles from home, where there are very few similarities. We just needed to get a grasp of the way people communicated, what the weather and climate was like and a bit of an understanding of the local area. With this in mind, we ventured into the city centre of Kampala. From where we were staying it took a good 20-25 minutes drive to get into the centre, this was because of the amount of traffic on the roads of Kampala and the amount of stoppages too due to the lack of traffic facilities. One of my favourite times of the day during my time in Uganda was the travelling believe it or not. I felt that winding the window down and coasting along the roads gave everyone a good outlook of the street life in Uganda, and how the different areas varied. I don't think I ever looked away from the window when I was travelling from place to place out there.

We'd all seen the impoverished conditions from just travelling around since we'd landed on Saturday morning, but the first time it really did home and sink in was during our journey to Kampala on Sunday morning. We stopped in a stand still of traffic approaching the city centre, and with everyone's windows wide open, we were open to passing by Ugandan's communicating with us, as a car full of Mzungus (white travellers) wasn't something that would be seen very often at all in Uganda. It felt a little intimidating at first, but we soon realised, after talking to our drivers and Erin, that it was due to the rarity of white people in Uganda and therefore nothing to be worried about. Whilst the vehicle was stopped we experienced a rather unpleasant and awkward incident when we were approached by a young child stood in the middle of the road who asked us for money. I don't think I've felt as bad and awkward before, it felt horrible, luckily I wasn't the person to make contact with the child because I wouldn't have known how to react there and then. I cannot talk for everyone else, but I have quite a large lump in my throat for the next five minutes whilst I thought about what we'd all just experienced. But this would be the kind of problem we would have to front up to for the next two weeks.

We spent a couple of hours in Kampala, mainly just touring round and looking at some of the sites. We had a look at a market, but the most memorable place we visited was the Church. We managed to walk in to the usual Sunday morning service, and at first I was gob-smacked by the turnout, it was packed. However, the mood seemed very sombre, and for some unknown reason there were several television cameras in the church. Now, unless they were doing the Ugandan version on Songs of Praise, this wasn't a normal Sunday morning service. 

The bizarreness then rose to the next level when the King of Uganda, escorted by security walked into the Church and pulled up a pew. This was all too surreal, we had to find out what was going on. We found the Vicar, and we could not believe it when he told us that this service was in fact the funeral of the King's Mother! Oh dear. How inappropriate could it be? 18 mzungus walking into a Church service unannounced, sitting down, poorly dressed  in shorts and t-shirts whilst the rest of the congregation, close friends and family were sat down, dressed immaculately in black, waiting for a very important service to take place. What are the chances? We waited until we left before we all had a good laugh about the mistake we had just made. Classic. And this was just day 3...

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