Kampala – arrival
David Weiss, March 23, 2013
Even before you open your eyes, Kampala is sounds and smells. Birds chirping or chattering – or storks bleating like goats. Leaves rustle in the breeze, and the air is thick with the moist fragrance of a landscape very much alive. I don’t know what flowers or plants fill the air, but they are pungent, sensuous, alluring with the grace of nature. The smell says, “You and I, we are already so involved with one another.” And I blush, “Why, yes we are.” From the front stoop of my little room I can see the city sprawling across hills in the near distance. The Namirembe Guesthouse is in the city itself, but situated on its own hilltop, one can almost believe that the city, with its own set of sounds and smells is much further away than it actually is.
But let’s back up. Let me say something about my entrance into Africa itself. Thursday I flew from Amsterdam across Africa, finally landing in Nairobi, Kenya just after dark. At 40,000 feet I saw mostly clouds all day long. A couple glimpses of the Mediterranean Sea and several teases of the desert, but little else. Disembarking the plane to walk a hundred yards of more into the airport, Africa welcomed me with the warmth of the evening. Inside the airport that warmth became also damp and close (no air conditioning here) – a bit like a hug from an overly affectionate relative.
After a short layover and an even shorter flight I landed in Entebbe, Uganda, shortly before midnight (4 p.m. in Minnesota) on Thursday. Almost exactly 24 hours after leaving Minnesota … and about 36 hours since my last sleep. So the thirty-minute wait in line to get my entrance visa was l o n g. Then a weary dash to the baggage claim where my bags were just coming out and a hopeful walk to the line of drivers waiting with signs. Unfortunately there was no driver holding a sign with my name; and when the woman at the information desk called the guesthouse there was no answer; and when the airport guard asked loudly if there were any drivers here from the Namirembe Guesthouse, suddenly my welcome to Africa became decidedly understated. I still am unsure where the communication gap happened; the Guesthouse said they sent a driver, but by 12:40 a.m. with my anxiety starting to wax in exact proportion to my waning energy, I was glad when a young taxi driver approached me and said he worked for a company that was often hired by the NGH to bring guests there and he would be happy to take me. So, with weariness setting in, I was equally happy to be taken.
It’s about a 35-40 minute drive from the airport to the Guesthouse at night. I think I was too tired to be overly alarmed by the driving, but I should’ve been. All the oncoming headlights were over in the wrong lane, and judging by my spot in the front left seat, I should’ve had my hands on a steering wheel. Then again, the “lanes” exist only in theory as the traffic uses whatever pavement is available at the moment – and the boda bodas (scooters) tend to even use the pavement that’s not available. But I made it to the Guesthouse, received my key, made my way to my little room, washed up and crawled into bed around 2 a.m., setting my alarm for 8:45 so I didn’t miss breakfast on my first morning in Uganda.
Enough for tonight. Tomorrow I’ll try to review my first couple of days here.