it was very difficult to choose what to focus on in this short blog entry about my experience in Uganda so far, so I decided to stick with what I have observed and experienced on a daily basis since my arrival and I also focus on what is different to standard continental European life. In upcoming blog entries, I will focus more on particular themes like transportation, health, economy, politics, security and more, so everything written now is more cursory than in-depth.
As a short introduction, Uganda is landlocked country in the Great Lakes region, surrounded by Rwanda to the South, the Democratic Republic of Congo in the West, South Sudan in the North, Kenya in the East and Tanzania in the South-East. In the wake of British colonialism, Uganda become constituted by several local kingdoms (e.g. the kingdom of Buganda or the kingdom of Bunyoro) as well as tribes in the North and East that were less hieracally structured like the Acholi. After the independence in 1968 and the implementation of the constitution, the kingdoms lost largely their political power but remain cultural remnants with some authority for local people. Once called the “Pearl of Africa” thanks to its economic success, Uganda experienced very turbulent years of internal repression during the the reign of Idi Amin and Obote. In 1986, the current president Museveni came into power and rules the country until today. Far from being perfectly safe, Uganda calmed down largely, especially after expulsion of the infamous Lord Resistance Army led by Joseph Koney.
Having arrived at Entebbe airport on the 4th January, the visa process went on without any problem what made me pretty happy after over 20 hours flight from Berlin over Istanbul. If you want to come to Uganda, you have to apply online and pay in advance 50$ as well as provide yellow fever vaccination certificate. Unfortunately, the flights from Istanbul to Uganda are during the night, so you cannot really see Alexandria, Cairo, Karthoum and other cities on the way except the lights on the ground. That is a big pity but I suppose that flying during the day over the Sahara can have negative consequences for the plane, so I will let myself educated on that matter from someone who might know the reason. We stayed for around one hour in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, and then flew further to Uganda.
Arriving here, I had my driver to my AirBnB place organized in advance what proved to be a very good precaution. To find a reliable and trustworthy driver at 4am in the morning can be a bit risky. Driving from Entebbe to Kampala (around 45 minutes) is an adventure for itself, if you are not used to driving rules in a developing country. To be honest, I did not observe any rules except for driving on the left-hand side (British heritage), not falling in one of the ditches or potholes, not to hit one of the dozens pedestrians that walk alongside the road, not to destroy your car by driving too fast against one of the concrete bumpers on the road and not to crash with a boda boda (a local motorcycle which is used by many people for transport here). Finally arrived at 5am, I am living in a quater which is called Muyenga. It is a safe here, local police with visible rifles walk around everywhere. Private militias secure some of the nicer compounds.
The weather is very warm currently as we have dry season. That means almost no rain (although it rained the last days) and also no humidity, although being close to the Lake Victoria. For local transport, I mainly use Uber but for short distances sometimes also a boda boda. However, after some close accidents, I tend more and more just to stay with Uber. The prices here are actually higher for imported goods than I have seen anywhere else (nevermind Scandinavian countries). But the fruits are fantastic, especially jackfruit is increadibly tasty and fills you for an entire day. Coffee is locally grown and roasted (e.g. Good African Coffee brand), so yes, be jealous if you are a coffee drinker. Malaria can be a problem, and after being bitten already many times by mosquitos despite meticulous precautions including the best repellent you can find, I assume my daily prohpylactic anti-Malaria pills perform their duty.
Overall, you can observe in Kampala the great discrepancies between rich and poor. The center of city looks like any European city plus there are several really nice quarters but once you go further away you get the full experience of slums, masses of people at the markets, no rules, daily hectic, crazy traffic jams, almost no internet connection if you are at the wrong place and dust. Here are several white people as well as Asians (Chinese and Indians stand out). The former mostly working for NGOs or coming for touristic purposes, whereas the latter largely for business. About the nature, I will write in a separate blog entry. So, I hope I gave a curosry glimpse on life here and in the following time, I will go more in-depth with regards to more specific topics. If there are any wishes, let me know. I am going to enjoy some chicken pie at a Dutch bakery now. One of the places with good Wifi. Have some impressions with the photos below which constitute just a small snapshot.