Friday, July 21, 2006

Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda, Greetings from, Ka-amp-ala!

So I am in Kampala, Uganda. You can definitely tell that Uganda is a couple clicks down on the old development ladder from Tanzania. Kampala actually looks like an African city, with dirt and beggars. So much for the false glories of East Africa as exemplified by Dar es Salaam.

I haven’t seen much of the city yet, but so far the most interesting thing about this place is the Marabou storks. Some cities have pigeons, Kampala has Marabous. They are everywhere. On roofs, in trees, in the street, everywhere. Which would sound like a standard urban problem, but Marabou stork are quite a bit taller than I am (admittedly that is not to impressive for a human, but this is a frigging BIRD), with a six foot wingspan. These things are huge. They are taller than the TV antennas. I’ll see if I can get a good picture.

I left Dar at 6am on Saturday morning. In my infinite wisdom, I decided to take a bus instead of flying to save a couple hundred bucks and see some of the Tanzanian, Kenyan and Ugandan countryside. The trip was supposed to take 22 hours, but it ended up taking just shy of 30, counting the two hour midnight stop in Nairobi. Thirty hours is a long time to be cooped up on an African bus.

The countryside in Tanzania was beautiful though, through the foothills of Kilimanjaro. I was hoping to see a zebra out the bus window, everyone said that it was possible if not likely, so I kept up a quiet intense vigil for the 12 daylight hours that I had, carefully scanning the horizon for zebras. Except for one false alarm with some hoofed thing with curly horns just shy of the Kenyan border, I didn’t even see a dog. *sigh.

Since I have been in Kampala, I have been working with the Ministry of Finance to finish a World Bank study. It is interesting to work in a government office here. “Good enough for government work” is a decidedly lower standard.

Other than that, I have just been trying to find a place to live. I have been in five hotels in five different nights, before I just gave up and decided to pay through the nose for a really expensive one so I could get some sleep. The first one was nice, but in the suburbs, an hour from work, right next to a really loud bar TV playing Mexican soup opera dubbed into English, and strangely, had no sink. I had to brush my teeth in the shower. The second night was a dumpy backpacker joint that charged a (small) fortune for a room with no fan or openable windows that was a five minute slog through the rain to the bathroom, which was filthy. The third night was in a “tourist hotel” downtown, where my window opened onto the enclosed courtyard bar, where Rod Stewart and Linda Ronstadt echoed off the walls to all hours of the night. The fourth night I stayed a hotel conveniently placed between two huge open air discos. I could feel the base in my teeth, as much as Michael Bolton has base. Took a pair of sleeping pills to salvage that night.

So now I am paying a (large) fortune to stay at a nice hotel with a pool and excellent restaurant. I can’t keep it up for more than a couple days, but it is nice to sleep for once. I will try to do something death defying this weekend to make up for this whiny dispatch.

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