Monday, August 27, 2007

Getting close with the people here

I don’t like going to Kampala, the capital city. There are several reasons for this. Long gone are they days when I could just hop into my car and drive wherever and whenever I felt like it. Now that I’m a PCV, there’s public transportation. While it differs for PCVs from country to country I opt for the bus trip. First I have to get a bus. Busses come along fairly regularly. Every 30-45 minutes or so. This is a good thing. They’re some of the biggest vehicles on the road, which in Uganda means they travel the fastest, which is generally a good thing. Buses make fewer stops than the mini van taxis, which is also a good thing. If I’m lucky I can catch the 4:30am bus (that’s right, 4:30am) which arrives in Kampala around 9:30. 5 hours on a bus. Not bad. (ok, it is, but bear with me) A normal vehicle could make the trip in 4 hours, but buses stop to load passengers along the way so it generally takes at least 6 hours from my site. The 4:30 bus is trying to get to Kampala as soon as possible in order to reload and make a return trip in the early afternoon. Another reason I don’t like buses is because it’s a money making venture for the bus companies, which means they cram as many people into the bus as possible. Normal buses have 2 seats on each side with an aisle in the middle, plenty of leg room and seats that recline. Here it’s 2 on one side, 3 on the other. Fortunately Ugandans have the build of a flute player in a marching band and not that of the starting nose tackle of the football team. Not only do the squeeze extra seats across the bus, they also squeeze in an additional row or two, which means my lanky 6’2” body doesn’t fit into the seat. My knees are pressed firmly against the seat in front of me for the entire 6 hour trip. Once I had something grabbing my ankles and when I looked under my seat I was surprised to find a duck! Occasionally there are also chickens and goats. There’s always the possibility of standing for the entire trip, as the bus conductors overload the buses to make a little bit more money. What surprises me is that they Ugandans never complain about this or demand their money back, though once the police stopped my bus and the driver received a fine of $5 for each individual that was standing, which was less than they price they paid for the trip, so they still made money off the deal. Inevitably the standers end up sitting on my arm rest reducing my already small seat into ½ of what it was. As if those weren’t enough problems there’s always the bus driver who cranks up the radio to it’s highest volume (even if it’s the 4:30 am bus) because he wants to hear it and the only speaker that’s working is in the back of the bus which, of course, is directly over the seat I’m in and it proceeds to play horrendous Ugandan music (though not all of it is bad) that is created by a single individual and a synthesizer to what seems like the same generic background music and beat for every song. Occasionally you’ll get a break from the Uganda music and instead you’ll get a mixture of Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton and Don Williams. Who would have guessed? Once arriving in Kampala the situation doesn’t improve, it gets worse. The bus takes you to the bus park which is grossly overcrowded with people commuting and shopping in that area. It’s notorious for pickpockets and before you even step off the bus you are being hawked by numerous taxi drivers to take you anywhere you want to go. Because you’re white, you obviously have oodles of money and aren’t capable of walking anywhere in the city.

Why I almost went home

Yeah, I almost left. I was seriously thinking about it a month ago. I’ve had down times here before but not like this. I woke up about 10 days in a row and the first thought on my mind was, “Why am I here?”. The fact is sometimes there’s not enough work for me to do and I like to be busy. Another problem is that sometimes my organization doesn’t use what I’ve created for them, and that’s frustrating. I don’t need to stay the entire 2 years here. I don’t need the title of RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) for me to know that I’ve served as a volunteer. I think that what kept me here were the Compassion kids, my friends on staff with Compassion and that I have not made plans for what to do when I get home. I hate to let people down and I just felt like I would really be letting a lot of people down if I left. I know I’m not supposed to worry about what others think, and I wouldn’t let that supersede my decision to come home if that was what I thought was best for me, but it plays a part. Another reason, and please don’t pass judgment too quickly, is the upcoming NFL season. I absolutely love football, especially fantasy football. More than is healthy, but it’s my hobby, my interest and I’m entitled to it. So, I’ve been reading about the Colts and reading fantasy football magazines and scouring the web as often as possible to get ready for my 3 upcoming fantasy football drafts this weekend and it’s helped to pull me out of a funk. So, I’m still here, with no foreseeable plans to leave. I’m busy now painting 3 murals on the walls at Compassion. Uganda, the World and the USA. It’s time consuming, but I’m really enjoying it and it will be something to benefit the kids here, especially to see where their sponsors come from.

2 Comments:

At 27 August, 2007, Blogger NanettePC said...

wow!!! first, can i just say thank you for reminding me about the bus trips!! your description was so right on and it makes my day a little brighter knowing i won't be taking one of those for a long, long time;) man they were crowded and stinky and dirty and LOUD!
second, i gotta say good for you for sticking through the hard times. and it's ok that fantatsy football is what helped you out;) too funny. i thought being able to come to some colts games would make you want to come back for sure. oh well, maybe next season;) glad you're doing great!

 
At 28 August, 2007, Blogger Przemek said...

hey I can only imagine your pain. that is why I praise God for our car. At the same time when I see that pass coming towards me, its size scares me for sure.

 

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