Time to put up my hiking boots and unpack my real and semi-neurotic self. The natural, day-to-day one, because it’s back to reality now, now I’m really living, not just going from one place to another in a whirlwind of excitement and soaking up sights tastes smells….
Two days ago, I arrived in Namulanda, a little village just off the main road connecting Kampala and Entebbe. It’s one of those fleeting images you capture on your way to somewhere real – the woman lying down beside her banana stand, the empty shack that resembles a barber shop, the men walking with baskets of peanuts on their heads. Except it’s not fleeting. This is my new home and where I’ll be for the next three months.
I have yet to adjust to the new pace. On the flight here from Dar es Salaam I was still in fast-forward mode, in travel-head: planning and cramming and making connections.
On the plane I spoke to a man who has a gold mine in Sierra Leone, another man with a diamond mine in Angola, a guy from the ministry of finance and then his boss – the minister of finance. Who is a woman!
My head was brimming with ideas about how I could utilize all these connections (forgetting for a moment that I’m an ignorant 21 year old pisher) and how I could make my stay in Uganda unforgettable and life-changing.
I read in my guidebook about Kampala’s must-sees, about the crazy dictators of the past and of the ridiculous homosexuality laws of the present, about the language (how the hell am I supposed to learn a new language now? Why can’t they speak Swahili?) and made mental post-it notes of about three thousand things I have to do while I’m here.
Big pack on my back, I walked into the house of the volunteers. My house. The others were just lounging around, but I was bursting! I wanted to see the village, meet the people, organize my room, get my bearings and make a plan. And eat, of course.
But then I realized that if I wanted my smelly travel clothes to be clean, I would have to sit outside with three buckets of water and soap and wash them. And if I wanted to eat I would have to go the stand and with my nonexistent money buy some bananas and beans. And if I wanted to eat the beans, I’d have to sort them and rinse them and soak them for six hours and cook them… and then of course burn them, because I wasn’t made for this stuff! I know, I like to think I am simple and down to earth, but deep down I am a spoiled brat who grew up in a nice suburb with other people doing things for her! Where are they now? I tried to figure out who I could pay to do things for me but then realized I didn’t have money. And the other girls looked at me like I’d fallen from the sky. “Why should someone else clean up our mess?”
It’s up to me now – I have to go into the immensely overcrowded Kampala to take out money, to buy a loaf of brown bread and other amenities that can’t be found in a village off the highway, go to the police-station in order to get rid of the strange looking man who’d been following me around, to tour the city and see where the Western hospital is, to sit in traffic for over an hour and say no countless times to all the people stuffing merchandise in my face (because I am white, so obviously, my sitting in the bus near the open window means I want to buy a fly swatter, a cut up jackfruit, a SIM card, a coca-cola and a towel.)
I am still “mzungu”, even though it’s a new language. And I am still getting ripped off, even though it’s a new currency. And I am still eating three bananas a day, even though it’s a new country.
Some things are the same but so many are different. A chapter ends and another begins – let’s see how many sewers I fall in this time…