There’s something special about travelling to a very different country and I have always loved it. Whether it is the sheer chaos of taxi drivers literally falling over themselves to grab your bag at the airport arrivals or the desperately poor condition of the roads, or the seemingly endless army of roadside vendors attempting to make a living by selling their wares to what must be an average of maybe one car in a hundred?
Uganda has all of these exciting, terrifying and desperately sad signs and so much more to make you feel like you truly have landed on another planet. It is hot and humid all year round, hovering around 30C.
Not only are the roads littered with potholes the size of bomb craters but there really are no ‘Highway Code’ rules that anyone abides by. On a single lane two way road for example, if a driver is running out of patience, they will simply create a third lane – dodging the oncoming traffic.
The ubiquitous motorbikes (affectionately called “borda bordas” due to the suggestion by the locals that they were universally used by people crossing borders into Uganda) that serve as an alternative taxi for many people are even worse. If they get bored (maybe this is the real reason they are called borda bordas!?) of sitting in the perpetual traffic jams, they will simply ride up the pavements – usually reserved for pedestrians but woe betide if you should try to protect this piece of concrete for yourself and your fellow walkers. They will simply ride right up behind you until you move aside through fear of them catching your heel.
On my first night in Kampala, my friends and I were walking down the said stretch of pavement and whilst on this occasion we were not accosted by a motorbike, we were confronted by the sight of a baby girl, simply left in the middle of the pavement. It was impossible to tell you this baby girl belonged to, whether a parent or guardian had simply popped into a shop and would be back soon or if the truth was a whole lot worse.
I am here in my capacity as a part-time fund-raiser for my favourite charity, Viva. Next time, I will explain a bit more about what they do and why I have come to Uganda.
For now at least, let me leave you with my favourite bumper sticker – of which there are an enormous variety – which said: “No condition is Permanent”.
Wherever you are this morning, be encouraged that just as the people of countries like Uganda, there is always a way forward.