avocados, taxis, & rain

Warning: this is a long post! I arrived in Uganda one week ago already! I can’t believe it. I told someone yesterday that I’ve been here for 4 days. Oops! I guess it’s a good sign that time is going by quickly. 

I don’t visit the university until Wednesday for my official greeting. (Which, I’m not sure what an official greeting entails). So that means I’ve been given all this time to settle-in. It’s very nice of the university and embassy to do this, but at the same time, it leaves me with a lot of free time when I don’t know anyone or much about the city yet. But, let’s get back to what I’ve done & learned: 

I moved into my apartment! The apartment is near the university, which is a little outside of Entebbe. I’m more in a semi-rural community. The US embassy chose a few apartments that met their security policies. The apartment is more than enough for me and so beautiful. At first, I negotiated living elsewhere, but I am very thankful for their concern and making sure my safety is priority. The complex has an armed guard overnight & the gate is always locked and closed during the day. Plus, all my doors and windows lock and are very secure. Also, there is a guest bedroom! Who wants to visit? 🙂 

On Wednesday, I had to go to the embassy in the capital for a quick meeting and some logistics. I was thankful they sent a driver for my first time. Unfortunately, we drove straight to the embassy and straight back to my apartment. I didn’t get to see much of Kampala, except through the car window:

Since moving in on Wednesday, I’ve been on my own. Meaning, no one to provide transportation, answer questions, and so on. So, I do what I do best – walk awkwardly up to people, try to greet in Luganda, and then ask a million questions! I realized if I wanted to eat, I needed to get out and explore.  I was able to call a private driver (that’s what they have instead of private taxis), to take me to the large supermarket. I went in with a huge list of household items and groceries. The avocados are my favorite. They’re huge & so cheap!

Once in my apartment, I needed to figure some things out. For gas, I have to go outside and turn on the gas tank. Wait a few minutes, cook, and then turn it off again. 

For electricity, I have to walk to a kiosk on the road, give them cash, get a code, and then add it to this box on the wall of my living room.

Setting up my phone was also interesting. Everything here is cash. So I pay cash to a kiosk, they add it to my phone number. Then, using specific codes, I load airtime (minutes) and data onto my phone each day, week, or month. Once I got the hang of it, it’s quite easy. Thankfully, it’s also quite cheap. I have to hotspot from my phone to be able to write this blog now. Since I have to hotspot, and it drains my data, I haven’t used anything like Netflix or Youtube, although they do work here. 

There’s not a washing machine here 🙂 The management at my apartment complex told me that they (personally) own a machine and would be willing to work something out if I needed to use it. However, I’d like to try hand washing just like everyone else. I’m sure it’ll get old really fast, but I’m determined. I’ve already done one small load. I forgot to pick up a washing board so I haven’t set out to do larger items yet. I will normally do this outside on my patio, but as my trial, I did it right by the sink. 

On Friday, I asked my manager multiple questions about transportation. Private drivers are SO expensive and I do not want to continue paying those prices. However, I’ve been warned to be very careful with public transportation due to traffic accidents & theft. The price however, is worth it. I was asking him so many questions that he said, “Okay, today at 5:00 we’re going on a taxi to Entebbe”. We walked to the main highway, crossed the highway (scary) and hailed a white and blue mini-van. These are shared taxis in Uganda and cost about 1,000 shillings (.27 cents). We crammed in and went to Entebbe. Once in Entebbe, we walked to the beach: 

We crossed the highway to the other side, and jumped in a crowded taxi. On the way, we kept picking people up. At one point I counted 18 people, plus a baby. People were sitting on each other’s laps (as in strangers & adults). I couldn’t take a picture because of high theft on the taxis. I had it hidden at all times. 

Once back near Nkumba, we headed back down our road. However, it had rained. It was muddy. I slipped. Lawrence (the manager) said, “You should get used to that”. It rains a lot here!

Today I woke up (after a rough night of persistent jet lag), and decided to stay in. At first, I felt bad not going out or doing anything. I even got dressed to take a walk, but it started pouring. Instead, I ate breakfast and had some quiet time on my patio, did some yoga, read for fun, cooked myself a meal, and started soaking some more clothes. It’s been a great day that has honestly made me feel more at “home” than a tourist. 

There are so many other little stories I could tell you & spend hours writing about. (Including some amazing conversations I’ve had, a large lizard in my bedroom, quite a few spiders, power outages, being asked out on a few dates, and so on). If you’re still reading, you are amazing! 

– Kim *theESLgirl

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