Arriving in Kampala, I met my new host in a popular fried chicken joint in town. Lucky Peter took me from town to the Kazo ward, a poverty stricken pseudo-district north of the city. Bobbing and dodging clotheslines strung up across a labyrinth of narrow alleys, and stepping mistakenly into the thick layers of vile mud which line the bigger streets, we eventually made it to the home of Father Godfrey, where I have been staying for nearly two weeks. The ward somehow feels like home already; by now I am navigating the dusty lanes with impunity, and the novelty of having a white guy in the neighborhood is starting to wear off.
Missed Connections: TIA
I came to Kampala with the purpose of meeting an important figure in the Barefoot Power solar solutions company with hopes of talking my way into a position in Australia, where the company is based. The morning after my arrival in Kampala, I shaved and put on my dazzle shirt. Checking my hair in the reflection of my motorcycle driver’s helmet, I gripped my notebook and resume with high hopes.
Arriving spot on time, I came through the gate and was greeted by many friendly people I already knew from previous visits. I poked around and found the director, Dirk, who informed me that the woman I was meant to meet had just left for eastern Uganda with a team of Australian designers to do some field work.
I had some coffee and took advantage of the free internet access available at the office. Once the battery on my laptop failed and I had finished all of the coffee cakes on the tray, disappointment finally swelled. I had been blown off.
I packed my things and unbuttoned my shirt, deciding to take a long walk to nowhere since my schedule was now free. I wrote and sang a scathing blues tune and wore a mean grin as I walked, which improved my mood.
Everything which goes wrong in Africa can be distilled into an oft uttered acronym: TIA, This Is Africa. This phrase is meant to console those who have fallen victim to the various causes of delay or stress which occur daily in a place like this. Traffic jams , bad roads, slow business, poor service, dropped calls, dirty water, flat tires, broken chairs, old computers, power outages, and a million other inconveniences are all taken as part of life around here.
For their infinite patience, Africans must be commended. They accept these problems, which would cause uproar in the western world, as fact and carry on. Nobody complains when the power is out for half a day: Just do without. For all the miserable traffic jams, there is surprisingly few exchanges between drivers which can be called ‘road rage’. No matter how far in advance a meeting is scheduled, the key participants can still show up two hours late without consequence.
It’s not easy to get the hang of this sort of life, but when all these problems are incidental and constant, there is no way to deal with them than simply to sigh and think TIA, man…. I am still in touch with my contact at Barefoot, fortunately, and I am hoping to work something out with her soon.
Volunteering in Kazo Ward
Since I met Lucky Peter, I’ve found him to be very ambitious. He runs a small nonprofit in the community called PMK Save the Future Generation – Uganda for which he has a hundred plans. Some work the organization takes on includes providing free health care to children from needy families, offering workshops to community members on will writing or craft making. Everyone in the ‘ho0od knows Lucky Peter.
Since I am staying around, I have offered my help with some administrative things like editing their website and helping write project proposals. It’s fun for me because I am learning a lot about the inner workings of charitable organizations, and getting some practice drafting important-looking documents. I have also visited a number of families who are part of the programs which PMKSFG offers, which has been eye opening.
It is neat to teach what I know to these folks. Knowledge which I had taken for granted, like knowing how to use Excel, or knowing how to build an attractive website is like gold.
At the home, I’m provided with food, which is quite convenient. In return I tutor one of the teenage girls who lives there in math and physics, and play music. I suppose when i leave I’ll leave them with some money to reimburse my meal costs.
Chance Encounters in K’la
When last I left for Masaka, I trudged through Kampala to get on Masaka road where I could better catch a lift and heat that direction. Along the way I was stopped by a chatty Ethiopian man of middle age who then payed for a motorcycle ride in my direction, saving me hours of walking.
His name is Fasil, and since I’ve come back to the capitol, I’ve met him a number of times over meals in town or over live music and pool tables at the club near his home in Bunga district. I took an immediate liking to him, not only for his grace in buying me beers, but also because we somehow have much in common as far as how we look at the world. Together we engage in lightning fast conversation loops, covering religion, music, politics, and anything else.
He’s also a traveler who has worked for years in other countries like Canada, and who pokes around new locations looking for opportunity. I told him about my mission to travel and work, and already he’s helped me make contact with potential employers. Who knows what will happen.
Whew. That’s what I’ve been up to.