“Metro” males in Kampala – The First Weekend

Writing on the eve of my second weekend, my first weekend in Kampala went pretty well. Matt and I watched “Get Smart” Friday night. I laughed more than I thought I would. I enjoyed finding certain parts of the movie funny that didn’t universally translate into humor due to political or cultural references to which Americans would be more attuned. Basically, I laughed at parts others did not so I was either that strange American or Mr. Gigglesworth. Oh well.

 

Saturday I started the morning at the guesthouse with a good 2 hour discussion with Hans, a German-born and trained pediatrician from the UK most recently, working in a hospital up north-country and also working with the Malaria Consortium (http://www.malariaconsortium.org/). Both lithe and sinewy, he had a youthful appearance and was quite engaging. He conveyed a nourishing optimism despite obvious setbacks and resource limitations where he practices. I shared some of my recent findings with the children’s cancer ward (to be discussed in another post), and he ameliorated my frustration a bit with his outlook. It became evident that his dedication up north is probably rarely matched, and his heart was in clinical medicine to the maximum.

 

Dennis from Case Western picked me up in his vehicle, and he gave me tours of some areas of town while doing errands. I discovered my now favorite grocery store that I can’t wait to get back to named “Payless.” Dry cleaning is much more expensive here than in the U.S. I came to find out. And I witnessed my first teenager male giving teenager male pedicure in my life. Just at a shack storefront along the road. Why not? And also, why not find a 17-year old gent in roller derby style roller skates holding onto the back of the matatu as it speeds away?

 

Dennis and I hit a traffic jam and told stories – he gave me some examples of TIAs (“This is Africa” moments). TIA is a euphemism coined by many years ago for when things don’t run smoothly or logically through a Western reference frame. I learned of it when reading “The Zanzibar Chest” by photojournalist Aidan Hartley. Dennis once was cornered by police for a potential ticket for a violation for which there was no sign saying it was a violation on a particular stretch of road. The cop retorted, “Do you think we have the money for such signs?” After what was a strange prolonged conversation, Dennis asked, “So are you giving me a ticket or not.” To which the officer decreed, “I have decided to give the ticket to someone else.” TIA. (Side note: my whole search for a flat in which to live has been a giant TIA!)

 

We went to Dennis’ place in Bugolobi – gorgeous open-air home. He has a housekeeper and guard. The thing is, he pays about $100 more per month for all that than I do for 1/3 of apartment rent in Chicago. After awhile, I randomly came down with food poisoning or some such thing and went home. I was supposed to meet Hans to watch a soccer game, but work detained him and I felt ill. I just had some rice and headed home from the Kisimenti area.

 

Sunday I discovered the oh sweet joy and missed high speed internet and excellent coffee at Café Pap in downtown Kampala. I took my first matatu ride to get there for 800 USh ($0.48). I read research protocols and wrote emails for 5 hours. Matt joined for most of the time, and we had lunch there. I satisfied that American productivity urged in a pleasantly high-caffeinated environs. But the main event for Sunday had yet to occur… Ndere Centre

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