I knew I was roughing it in Africa when…

…I turned on my shower only to feel warm water. No no no – maybe it was when I came back from work one evening to find my dirty laundry had been stolen only to find out my apartment cleaners wash our laundry for us twice a week. That couldn’t be it – No, I knew I was roughing it in Africa when I found out that the apartment came with a membership to the local country club. Yeah, that was it – I definitely did not expect that.

So, I learned quite a bit in my second week in Africa. I learned that I am more scared of going to sleep with a mosquito inside my mosquito net than pretty much anything else. I learned that there is worse bus congestion here than at the SF Transbay Terminal (see below)

Bus Port:

I learned that I really take air conditioning for granted. I learned that worship in African churches is a whole lot different than worship in American churches (kind of a good thing). Finally, I learned that I actually do have better bargaining skills than I originally thought.

Here’s the story: There’s a huge market in Kampala called the Owino (Oweeeno) Market which the best explanation is probably something like, “Goodwill on steroids”. The back story is that donations from thrift stores in America and Europe are shipped to this market and sold in box to a bunch of different people at this market at really inexpensive rates. In turn, these people set up their shops within this huge tent and sell everything from these boxes. My friend, Moses, said there’s all kind of gems at this market, but it just has to be sorted out from everything else. Of course, I was skeptical so I had to venture out and figure out what this mystical place entitled. Moses was gracious enough to join along as we trudged through thousands upon thousands of articles of clothing. I finally reach this jeans vendor and see this pair of seven jeans in perfect condition. Now, I know these jeans retail ~$150 but I didn’t think these vendors knew that information. Actually, I know they didn’t as the vendor states that the price is 60,000 UGX ($24). I would spend 60,000 UGX in a heartbeat for these jeans but thankfully – he didn’t know that. Here’s where the bargaining started. I said I’d give him 10,000 UGX, and he says 30,000 UGX than 20,000 UGX. I tell him 15,000 UGX is my final offer, and he tells me that he can’t sell them that cheap because it’s his cost (not true). I walk away and he yells out to me to my that he would accept my 15,000 UGX offer.  In all honesty, his cost was probably around 2,000 UGX and he was probably amped on getting 15,000 UGX, but I was pretty happy about it. Now, I won’t mention that I also ripped off on a pair of LaCcste (not a mistype) shoes because that would indicate that my bargaining skills are amateur at best.

Anyways, I have another crazy story about imported pork (I know, it doesn’t make sense), but I’ll have to wait until next time. I miss all of you guys in the states! Hope you are all doing well!

Ben

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Complete Darkness

It was 10 minutes until my plane touched down in Entebbe airport just before midnight after 24 hours of travel and 3 layovers. Ouch. Given the seemingly hundreds of flights I’ve taken in the past few years, I have gotten my ritual down to a tee: seat up, tray table in the upright position, bookmark in book, ipod in backpack, stare outside at all of the cities lights. Little did I know, it would be completely different as I stared outside into complete darkness with not a light in sight (nice rhyme, huh?). For a second, I thought we couldn’t possibly be landing. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see a few scattered lights which could be mistaken for a runway. Oh wait, it actually was the runway. I was in Africa.

In the three days I’ve been here, I feel I have learned so much from trying Matoke (green bananas, which surprisingly resemble potatoes) to learning  locales political standpoint about the recent presidential elections. I also realized I am really not as adventurous for coming to Africa as I originally thought after countless conversations with ex-pats about quite ridiculous adventures. One ex-pat, in particular, lived in a tent for 7 months working with an NGO in Southern Sudan doing research filtering through manure trying to find causes for various diseases. No joke.

I will leave you with some notable differences between Uganda and America:

1) Drivers drive on the right side of the vehicle.

2) One of the main forms of transportation in Kampala are motorbikes called boda bodas (pictured below), which are really dangerous but also slightly exhilarating.  Think dirt bikes with aggressive drivers weaving in and out of traffic on roads with major pot holes. Yeah, in the desire to stay alive, I think I will keep this means of transportation to a minimum.

3) Eggs in the supermarket are not refrigerated ( I am still shocked)

4) People who speak English generally speak very slow and quietly, so I always feel somewhat embarrassed after the third or fourth time saying, “Wait, what did you say?”

5) You barter for almost everything.

6) There are thousands of these birds here called the Marabou Stork (pictured below) that stand about 3 feet tall and are pretty intimidating. Sometimes, I wonder if these are the storks that bring babies into the world. Naaaa, they are just plain ugly.

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