What do you think about Uganda?
That is the Question, that every local person asks me when we first start a conversation.
It is somewhat difficult to answer though. However, that is why I am writing this post to attempt to express my opinion.
Here you are going to read how I digest my experiences in Uganda, Africa.
Frankly, I find it better than what I expected. I was preparing for the worst. In my mind I was going to the military, it was the closest thing in my head that was comparable.
Living on a Budget
Before all, you should know that it is not so cheap here. Yes, you would be a millionaire (in Ugandan Shillings) once you exchange your foreign currency, or if you already come prepared. But keep in mind that it is all varies of what standards you are looking to meet.
If you don’t want to drop your life standard, the one you have been used to, you would most likely spend more in a week than I do in a month.
So here is what I want to give you as an example – grocery shopping.
Making a blind guess, I would say you shop your groceries, for the most part, from the local supermarket. That is what is considered normal in the Western world, and that is exactly what I have been used to. Although I had experience in shopping from a local market before, here is different.
Again, our budget here is what we are compromising with. I can’t afford to eat in a restaurant every day. So that’s why we spent much time cooking in the house. A house full of volunteers, nine to be precise. Everybody takes turns and even though it is not the perfect proportion, we silently have found our equilibrium.
Here is a fact check. For the price you would pay to get a full wrack, thirty eggs (10k Ugandan Shillings), you won’t even buy a medium-size pizza from Pizza Hut (24k Ugandan Shillings). Yes, there is Pizza Hut, also KFC, and other well-known franchises. The point is that this pizza won’t even feed you, if you are like me, of course, six inches and three feet long.
So imagine if you would like to spend your night in a great restaurant here, you would probably pay more than 150k (almost 40 euros). That will include a standard three-course meal with two drinks if we keep dinner for two. If you are looking for some extra food or you are a bigger group, prepare to pay double, triple, up to the group’s count.
I can buy fruits for a really good price. Everything from bananas to avocado, I mean the local fruits. Also, sugar cane, mango, and pineapples are cheap.
My First Impression
Coming here reminds me of a village. Pretty much alike as those we have in Bulgaria, at least Kawempe district is like this. I am used to getting lots of groceries from the villages, especially dairy. That’s if I am living in my hometown.
It is a good time to remind you here that I live in the capital city of Uganda, Kampala.
The main streets are funnily called highways, although they have just one lane people manage to drive in between cars, trucks, and mopeds both ways. The driveway direction is reversed – cars are suited for the right side, as they do in the UK and Ireland.
Seeing all this traffic here really shocked me though.
They are too many cars on the road. It is busy, throughout the day until sunrise. Clearly, Toyota Corolla is the most produced car in the world, I had heard this before and now I can confirm it. Another observation of mine led me to conclude that they are newer cars here than we have in Bulgaria. It might sound strange, but we do have many cars produced and still being used in the last century.
As much as Bulgarians complain about their roads, here I can’t say it is better. They are fewer asphalted roads outside the city center. They do cover a big part of the residential city, but as a person who lives on a black road, it doesn’t seem nice. And don’t confuse my neighborhood with a getto, seemingly a good assumption that is not true.
Hence, the roads made, are with surprising quality.
Normal is a twisted term around here.
It’s meaning is different for the local people, and out of context for us – whites.
Surprisingly racism hasn’t been brought to mind here. But what might seems racist to you coming from outside Africa is when locals call you “Muzungu” (meaning white man).
Despite what people are looking to make personal contact with you. They have their own reasons, maybe seeking help, or just your presence is too surprising to them.
You can find great service in restaurants, despite the accent barrier. Just don’t give up to communicate your message too easily.
Meanwhile for locals is normal, and mostly required to go to church on Sunday. However, Muslims, Hindus and else live in harmony. They are Arabs, Indians, and Chinese here ethnicities. On top of that a whole neighborhood known as a place where white tourist reside. It is called Jinjer, on the Source the Nile.
A Night Out
I finally went out to a club, at least that was the plan. That was before we go to three more that same night. It surprised me, I didn’t expect to find so active nightlife in Africa. And here it is, 21.72 mi (34.96 km) away from the Equator, we are having fun after midnight.
Here I want to drop a note about health. It is exactly after midnight that malaria-carrying mosquitoes are coming out until five am. That is what I read in an article from Harvard Medical school. Plus, I got warned by a doctor whom I had a consultation about malaria in Bulgaria, just before I start this journey. It turned out though that I was safe.
A week later, with a couple more nights out without drinking malaria prevention pills or using spray(mine was over) I am still in perfect health. I hope it still goes the same way and all that during the rainy season in July.
Apart from this clubbing is fun. They are different places you can go, variety is out there, you can even find a few rock bars. But the majority of the night clubs are dance clubs, playing famous pop songs, and local dance music. In others, you might find hip-hop too, and actually Bulgarian pop songs too.
In a Nutshell
Life here is safe, maybe not so much for a woman walking alone in the dark, but it is. Local people tend to respect foreigners here, as long as it is mutual of course.
They are lots of things to do if you can afford it. A safari is a common example, which could cost more than 900 euros per person for four days if you are a big group.
But in a gist here is pretty cool to get closer to the life of the normal people. It is normal to be poor, but people in the capital are fairly stable.