While I was complaining about traffic on West Main Road, this was what life is like for Katelin, a Newport Photographer doing an internship in Kampala, Uganda.
“Someone recently asked what is it like to live in Uganda? Here's a snapshot of a day in Kampala....I wake up to the sound of my alarm, and reach under the tightly tucked in mosquito net to grab my phone. It’s 7:15 a.m. I get out of bed, fold my blanket and put my red flip-flops on. I open the door and walk into the kitchen where I fill up the hot water boiler and turn it on. After it boils I take it into the bathroom. The shower only has cold water. The first month here I was taking cold showers everyday, but it became cold during the rainy season so I started taking “bucket baths”.” First I wash my hair in cold water under the faucet below the showerhead. Then I pour the hot water into the basin and fill it with cold water until it’s a proper temperature. Then I use a cup to pour the water on myself, then the water drains into the floor. It’s amazing how little water it takes to bathe!
After getting dressed and preparing all my equipment for the day, I prepare a bowl of muesli and a cup of mate tea. (Yes, I actually found mate in Uganda!) Agnes, the cleaner has arrived and is sitting on the porch. I gather my dirty clothes and pile them on my bed. After breakfast, I open the padlock, unlock the door and let Agnes in the house. She immediately takes her shoes off and puts on flip-flops greeting me with a big nervous smile. Today she’s brought me an avocado. She has an incredible body odor once again. Yet, she seems like a clean being, with clear skin and is well dressed in a skirt and ruffled shirt. She’s a large, plump and dark African woman of about twenty-five years old. She has a particular passion for gardening, for all of the plants have become healthy since William moved out of the compound and left them with us a few months back. And a rather good fashion sense, offering good tips to my outfit for the day. I give Agnes the extra set of keys and give her a hug.
I walk down the paved hill, past two other cottages and towards the gate of the compound. I open up the metal door and arrive to a very different reality. A dusty, unpaved road with a six story “Lord’s Hostel” out front. Several students walking down the road, some smile, some look at me like I have five heads. As I walk down the road, a BeadforLife graduate sits and cooks her potatoes saying to me, “Well done!” I walk past the shanty looking businesses that sell airtime and bottled water. The guys are all at the boda-boda stage again this morning. Sitting there waiting for a mzungu like me. They slap their motorcycle seat proclaiming, “you sit here, we go! 2,000!” (which is the mzungu price, if I were Ugandan he would have asked for 500 shillings) But I just smile and laugh and say, "no webale” and continue walking. Farther down the bumpy road, I’m dodging large Range Rovers that are inches from my body. Boda-bodas zoom past. There’s no sidewalk. As I pass through the area with several slum-looking businesses selling chapatti,(similar to Indian naan), stationary and produce, boney dogs looking like zombies creep along the road, an invisible child screams, “Mzungu. mzungu. mzunguuuu, MZUNGUUU!!!” Another teenager walking with a large yellow container of water on their head. Smoke in the distance from a burning pile of trash and smell of burning plastic. I could still hear the child screaming in agony from up the street. At that point, I wish I had a huge scarf to wrap around my entire body. As I make it down the rocky road, looking out for ditches and rushing cars. I see the busy Spring Road ahead. Cross walks don’t exist in Uganda. This road is particularly dangerous because people die on it each day. I’m cautious and cross with a Ugandan when they go and quickly run across.
On this next road, there’s actually somewhat of a sidewalk on the way to the office. It’s a dirt path, but at least there’s a path. Yet, there are several holes in the ground where sewer covers used to be but have since been stolen. It’s about a ten-foot drop into sewage water, if you make the mistake of falling in. The instant smell of pollution and exhaust as the cars and boda-bodas rush by, so much that you can literally “chew” the black smoke. I pass the "Happy World of Plastic." A colorfully painted plastic factory is on my right. Boda-bodas, constantly stopping and shouting and pointing at their bike. More funny looks from the locals selling hot tea and yet another group of men cheering me on and offering a ride on their motorcycle from the next boda-boda stage. Then I turn right down the hill to the office exhausted from the heat and bustle.
Everyday is an adventure in Kampala. It reminds me of an apocalyptic San Francisco, with it’s many hills and trees yet with ruined historic architecture; with both it's group of tragic deserters, and incredibly stylish and sophisticated people. The many trees that used to be in Kampala, as described by Paul Theroux when he taught at Makerere University in the '60s are now all gone. The bats of Bat Alley disappeared. It’s a concrete jungle. And everybody wants to be the highest in the food chain.
I'm now back in peace and quiet of the guest house. I’ve worked a long day at the office editing videos. There aren't any screens so the windows are all shut, curtains drawn. I'm covered in DEET spray. I've become very good at crushing mosquitos in my hand! I’m currently taking care of an American volunteer who contracted malaria last week. What a nasty thing to go through. He’s sitting in the living room of the guesthouse looking as pale and thin as a ghost. He wasn’t able to keep food down for five days because of sever dehydration. He says it feels like his head is still in bed and his body is on the floor. He deliriously asked me if I pulled his mosquito net up for him, yet I hadn’t been in his room. He woke up several times the night before in cold sweats, having awful dreams. While the medications help heal from malaria, they have horrible side effects. Yet, it's best that he's getting good treatment now in Kampala, compared to how it was in Lira where the staff hardly visited, the toilets uncleaned and bed uncomfortable. He said, “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.” Gladly, he’s getting proper treatment - please say a prayer for Jeremy...
Until next time... Katelin"