These include but are not limited to:
-Mutatus (A van taxis which should only hold 14 but the further you are from the capital, the more people get packed in. The most I’ve seen is 25.)
-Corolla Taxis (A car taxi the size of a Toyota Corolla which should fit about 5 people, but I have been in a car with 20.)
-Buses (Usually should stop filling when there are no seats, but here you have people sitting and standing in the aisle.)
-Post Bus (By far the best option, leaves at scheduled times and does not stop and pick up people along the way.)
Here is another horror story regarding transportation:
The day the conductor got arrested.
*Please note that this story is based on true events and any resemblance to actual events is NOT coincidental.*
On my way to Masaka (purpose: to check my post box) I found myself in a fairly turbulent situation. The journey began before sunrise, where I found myself wandering the streets at night trying to find the pickup location for the early morning bus. After finding the bus I was looking for, I bought my ticket and found an empty seat. Within minutes I had fallen sleep (don’t worry, I had my bag on my lap to dissuade thieves) and the bus was moving. After about 20 minutes, the bus pulled over on the side of the road, reason unknown. After about an hour, the conductor (the man in charge of collecting money, assigning tickets, and indicating stops) came on the bus and said there was something wrong with the bus and that we would switch to another bus. After another 20 minutes the second bus came and all the patrons of my bus exited and made our way on a treacherous ledge to the second bus. After almost falling three times, I finally reached the other bus only to be told we would be re-boarding the first bus. Frustrated, I turned back to the first bus, boarded, and fell asleep again. After what felt like 30 minutes, I woke up to realize a few hours had passed and I was just outside of Masaka. I sat patiently, waiting for the bus to reach the bus park, only to notice that the bus was passing Masaka. Not sure what was going on, I approached the front of the bus only to find the conductor missing. I asked another patron about the stop we were supposed to have in Masaka, only to find out that we passed it and could not turn around. Why? Apparently this trip was “illegal” in that it was not a registered route. I asked the patron where the conductor was and he said “oh, the conductor was left behind, he has been arrested”. Not really sure what to do, I tell the passenger I need to go to Masaka. The passenger’s only response is “sorry, we will try to get you a taxi”. I walk back to my seat, nervous about not being able to get off where I need to get off and having to figure out how to get my butt home. The “helpful” passenger comes back to my seat and says the driver will find a taxi for me. I indicate that I will not pay and the passenger says he will ask if the driver will pay. Finally, after what seemed like some hard negotiating, the passenger comes back to my seat and says the driver will indeed pay for a taxi back to Masaka. Relieved, I wait patiently for the bus to stop…20 minutes later we are still moving. At some point, we stop and I board another bus going in the opposite direction, only to find there are no seats available. The conductor on this bus makes a young girl stand to allow me to have a seat, however I tell the girl to sit with me in the seat (since I’m used to squeezing more people than should be in any designated area). I also give her a piece of candy for her trouble. At some point I finally reach Masaka, where I am able to check my post box and turn around to go back to my site.
In other news, I am pretty sure I am going to test positive for Schistosomiasis, also known as Bilharzia, next time I have a run in with medical. I was walking back from the market in town when I ran into one of the guards from the nursing school. I followed him, not really walking with him as his stride is easily three of mine, when I noticed him turning onto the shortcut (which I mentioned earlier was flooded). I asked if the path was clear and he said yes, I asked if it was dry, just to clarify what I meant by clear, and he said “yes, it is okay”. So I followed him rather than walk the long way.
While the water had receded a great deal, there are still areas where I had to walk on rocks and my feet went under the water. At one point I stumbled in the water (thankfully only my feet fell in) and I lost a shoe in the mud. The guard doubled back and fetched it for me, but I am pretty sure this exposure, plus the whole rafting in the Nile scenario, pretty much guarantees a positive test result for Schistosomiasis.
Sometimes I question the life I lead here in Uganda, but I guess I shouldn’t complain. At the very least, it is always interesting.
Update on my cooking endeavors:
I received an amazing package with macaroni and cheese packets so I decided to get my Julia Child on and cook up some macaroni and cheese with green peppers and tomatoes. I also added garlic powder and parsley.
IT TASTED AWESOME! And, big day, no pee butt! It tasted somehow like my mom’s macaroni casserole, but obviously not as good. I shared some with the pastor and he seemed to really enjoy it. I noticed when I make one of the macaroni packets there is easily enough food for three people, so I may have some of the staff members over for dinner one night, when I am feeling inspired yet again (really, whenever I am bored).
On another unrelated note (aren’t my transitions amazing?), it has come to my attention that I often forget how cute and sweet Ugandan children can be. We (and by “we” I mean foreign volunteers) can get so jaded and blinded by the kids who always run around screaming “mzungu” and other words meaning foreigner, getting lost in the frustration we feel when it seems all the kids want is candy or money, that we forget they are just kids. It isn’t necessarily their fault they think foreigners are full of money and candy. That is all they see and all they are taught. It’s really up to us to change the stereotype and correct the misinformation they are given. Sure, it is not going to happen overnight, nor will it probably change within the two years of service, but hopefully, by the time I leave, one parent will be able to teach his or her child not all foreigners have money and candy to give, our names aren’t “mzungu”, and we truly just want to help make a difference for the future of these children.
You are probably wondering, Aditi, what brought on this sudden affirmation that Ugandan children are worth the effort?
Well, all it took was a young girl and her little brother (or sister, I couldn’t really tell based on the clothing he or she was wearing) singing and dancing at church service (yes, I apparently go to church service these days). Their innocence was illuminated and I realized I need to change my attitude and try to help more, try to change the ideas these kids have of what we, as volunteers, do and what we have.