I know where I stand in terms of the world pecking order especially internationally. Even if unemployed being able to travel for extended periods of time across multiple continents is a privilege not to be taken for granted. My travel is not a solo expedition even though I’m traveling by myself, there’s an entire support team with me – not just in Seattle but throughout the world. To a certain degree I’m able to do what I do with ease through random generosity from strangers I encounter. Kampala was no different.
I was told Kampala is chaotic, dangerous and racially segregated. After experiencing the chaos of India, the rest of the world doesn’t intimidate me. There’s petty theft in Kampala that will briefly inconvenience you but your life and safety is threatened. In terms of racial segregation, it’s visibly obvious but if I reached out to Ugandans they warmly welcomed and accepted me. In the early 1970’s Indians were expelled from Uganda due to their refusal to integrate into the Ugandan community.
My Rwandan friend Sabrina and I went to Kampala to visit her mom Marceline. I hadn’t met Marceline before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Turns out she’s a beautiful classy woman with a sincere and friendly heart. Upon our arrival in the morning she had a pot of hot African tea waiting for us and lunch for later in the day – she did all of this before she heading to work at 8am. Throughout our visit she paid for my bus rides, taxi rides and a few of the meals.
I wanted Sabrina to have a Muzungu (African word for tourist, but the literal translation is “someone who roams around aimlessly”) experience in Kampala so I booked us a 6-hour walking tour (http://www.kampalawalktour.com/) which I highly recommend. The walking tour was the highlight of my 5 days in Kampala. Marceline put us on a local bus telling the conductor we needed to get off at the Main Post Office, the conductor walked us from the bus stop three blocks to the post office to ensure we don’t get lost. We took a selfie with the conductor before we departed, he was happy to have tourists on his bus.
I had gone to have drinks with some other tourist while Sabrina and Marceline had their hair done. If you didn’t know already - African hair is high maintenance – I left Sabrina at 5pm and at 10pm her hair was finally done. I will never complain about my haircuts again! Marceline gave the motorcycle taxi driver instructions on where to drop me off after drinks but I was dropped off a few blocks away. With a cell phone that didn’t work in Uganda, no name of the salon or area where Sabrina and her mom where - I stood at the edge of the sidewalk at 8pm hoping my friends would find me. A few Indian families walked by giving me puzzled looks since culturally Indian women are not supposed to be standing by themselves in the city. Three young Ugandan men approached me asking if everything was ok since it’s not safe for me to be by myself. I explained the situation and one of them used his phone to call Marceline to find the exact location of the hair salon. One of the men took time out of his Saturday evening to walked me to Marceline and Sabrina.
After all the stories about how dangerous and scary Kampala is, I learned if you believe in the kindness of humans they will meet and often exceed your expectations.