Jazz, soccer, and Ugandan birthday cake

Independence Day falls on October 9th here in Uganda. Not everyone celebrates it depending on their political leanings as I came to find out. But most had the day off from work. Sarah and I tried to go to the celebration at the Kololo airstrip. When we arrived we had to pass through metal detectors set up on the street. Right before we entered, a man told me I had to leave my camera or I could go no further. He then told me he liked it, asked where I bought it, and starting playing with it.

Quickly calculating what to do, I asked him, “Well, who would I give it to?” “Oh, it will be safe with one of the police.” To which I replied looking him straight in the eyes, “Will it really be safe?” He said with a smile, “It will be safe.” And then I said gently, “No it won’t.” We both knew that was the reality. So Sarah and I left. Apparently, we could have had our cell phones confiscated as well.

When the president goes somewhere, phones and cameras are technically prohibited. I did not know this beforehand unfortunately. As we were walking home, Sarah grabbed a quick shot of the airstrip. And then a police officer approached us. We left after that, suffice it to say, after an interesting conversation.

Independence Day - Kololo Airstrip (downtown Kampala in background)

Independence Day - Kololo Airstrip (downtown Kampala in background)

The next day, I awoke to my roommates Willem and Michiel coming in my room with a lit birthday cake while I was sleeping. They strung up balloons around the apartment and had party kazoos in their mouths. Very kind of them! 

Tasty frosting

Tasty frosting

That night a group of the Yalies and Willem, Michiel, Sarah and me then headed to the Kampala International Jazz Festival – the first one here ever. Held at the fancy Speke Resort on Lake Victoria for 2 days, we were excited about the venue. Three great groups performed, but hands-down Miriam Makeba’s performance was the best. 

Miriam Makeba performing

Miriam Makeba performing

She had a rich, sultry voice, even at age 76. She is perhaps the most famous African artist internationally. I found a duet of her and Simon & Garfunkel on my iPod when I checked back at my place afterwards. Quite the entertainer, storyteller, and singer. She completely captured the crowd. At 76 years old, it was amazing how energetic she was.

The Jazz Festival was not too crowded, perhaps a little surprisingly. There were many foreigners (about 50% of the crowd). The prohibitive price may have been a reason why more Ugandans were not there or the distance from the city itself at a fancy resort. Hopefully, they’ll continue the tradition annually and make it a bit more accessible. It was a great way to spend a birthday night in Uganda!

Sunday a larger group of us went to the Uganda versus Benin World Cup/Africa Cup qualifier game at Mandela National Stadium. Sidenote, on the scoreboard it read “Benin vs Udanda” for the first half of the game, but then later someone noticed the spelling error.

Benin v Udanda

Benin v Udanda

 Benin appeared to have the game in their hands. Uganda had good offence but couldn’t deliver and had many offsides violations. But then they did deliver and scored two goals within minutes of each other and won the game. People started spraying water all over the crowd, and an eruption of noise filled the stadium.

Benin v Uganda

Benin v Uganda

The stadium was only 2/3 full at its height. Make no mistake, it did not mean it was less crazy. As at all sporting events, people tend to drink a little bit much. And by the end of the game, that led to some interesting situations such as the following.

At the very end, people in our section started throwing trash at the police on the field. Well, let’s be honest. That is not going to go over well in any setting. So the police aimed their tear gas guns at our section and everyone started running. Except us. We had no clue what was going on.

Dawn before the threat

Dawn before the threat

But then someone yelled, “Mzungu run!” We started to and then realized why. Now the police did not launch the tear gas at us, probably because our group of about 18 people was the only one left by the end of the exodus.

The matatu ride back took a long time, and a lack of agreed upon price created a mildly tense situation with the driver and conductor before we exited the vehicle. Nonetheless, we had a great time overall throughout the day. Waving my Ugandan flag around in celebration, people honked horns and boda-boda drivers cheered. Uganda won. We had a fun time watching it.


3 Responses to “Jazz, soccer, and Ugandan birthday cake”

  1. healingnumenor Says:

    Today, 10 November 2008, a news story release reported that Miriam Makeba had tired from a probable heart attack. I’m very thankful I had the chance to see her perform a month ago. Her musical and social legacies will certainly not be forgotten by history.


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  3. zum erfolg Says:

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