Bye bye Kampala, hello again Nairobi

Dear friends and family,

I am now back in Nairobi after two wonderful weeks in Kampala. What a
quaint little African city. They call Kampala the pearl of Africa and one
can see why. It is tucked into a valley surrounded by seven hill tops, so
the views are breathtaking from all the vistas. The city is lush with
green vegetation and beautiful flowers, and is quite walkable, once you
work out your sense of direction. Going out in Kampala traffic by foot,
you must have your wits firmly in place. There is traffic, and by traffic,
I mean boda bodas (motorbike taxis), matatus (mini public buses), private
automobiles, trucks, and pedestrians, all vying for the same scarce public
space. The absence of traffic lights and presence of roundabouts make it
challenging to cross the street. The fact that they drive on the left here
furthered my disorientation. Just to be safe, I would look in all the
directions. Motorists will do anything to get ahead of the pack, including
driving on sidewalks! A pedestrian in Kampala has as many rights as those
hideous birds I told you about last week, the marabout storks. It's
survival of the fittest, forget about justice and right of way. Ok, enough
gripe.

Let tell you about the Owino Market. It's Kampala's largest and liveliest.
You've never seen so many wall to wall stalls in your life selling
everything you can think of: clothing, electronics, shoes, belts, jewlery,
food. All these goods are stacked on high to the ceiling. The stench of
the place is a mix of urine, rotten food and body odour, not the best
elements for putting you in a buying mood. However, I felt I had to
experience it if I really wanted to experience the real Kampala. As many
vendors were vying for my attention at once, I didn't know where to look.
It was overwhelming. It didn't help either that the path to the stalls
were muddy and full of holes. Luckily I enlisted the help of Frank, my
driver in Kampala, who helped me enormously with the bargaining. In the
end, I made out with some good deals and didn't feel too ripped off.

There was massive PR campaign going in Kampala while I was there meant to
educate Kampalans of the dangers of the "sexual network." It's code
basically for groups sharing sexual partners. In Uganda, the sexual
network is loosely referred to as "sides dishes" or "spare tires"! Last
time I was in Kampala in 2008, the campaign was against "generational
sex," a trend of much older men being sugar daddies to much younger women.
Seems like Ugandans have trouble staying home.

Leaving Kampala yesterday, en route to the airport, I had to get out of my
vehicle to go through a security check about five minutes away from the
airport. It was pure security theatre as some cars just rolled on by
missing the check, while others were forced to get out of their cars to
pass through. While I had to go through the check, my driver did not. Go
figure.

Back in Nairobi and spent the afternoon at a music festival called
"Blankets and Wine" with my friend Carol and some of her local Kenyan
friends. It was a place where people could bring their picnics and wine
and listen to great live music. Felt like the folk festival back home. The
crowd was a mix of young and old, but most were young looking hipsters
garbed in traditional African dress with a dash of Californian hippiness
of 70s. Lots of flip flops and tank tops. I discovered a great local band
who was playing, called Sauti Sol. Check them out on the web if you have
the chance and interest. Their music is amazing!

Enough for now. I hope you are well and enjoying the Canadian heat.
Starting week four...time is flying!

Take care all,
Carole
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