This in not an official U.S. Department of State (DOS) blog and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the DOS.
Yesterday I had an adventure. I went on a road trip to Mbale to visit my friend, Irene and her family. I met Irene back in the summer of 2011 when she was working for The Water Trust in Masindi and I was conducting the research to assess the NGO’s impact on the health of the communities they serve. She served as my translator for the oral interviews and also helped me to make contact with all of the people I needed to work with during that trip- her help was indispensable! We kept in touch from afar by email and I saw her again in fall 2012 but by last fall, she had moved to Mbale and had a baby and I didn’t get to visit with her. I did meet her sister, Barbara, though, and she agreed to go with me to Mbale yesterday and help me navigate the local bus system, which is way less costly than taking a special hire taxi.
Since it takes 4-5 hours to get to Mbale, we needed to take the 7am bus so Barbara and I met at the bus stop at about 6:30am, while it was still dark. The bus ride to Mbale went smoothly.
I was able to get a little rest on the way, it wasn’t too hot, and the traffic was light. We arrived at 11:30am (after leaving at 7:07am) and James, Irene’s husband picked us up.
Irene has a lovely home and she served me a delicious juice mixture upon arrival. She made it herself and it contained fresh passion fruit, melon, and orange juice. Migel, her 10&1/2 month old baby also loved the juice!
Irene also prepared a feast and wouldn’t let me help with any of the preparations or clean up. She said that I was the guest and in Ugandan culture I was to just relax and enjoy talking with James. And this was delightful. I got to know James a little more- he is an accountant- and he was able to show me many, many pictures of Migel since birth and also pictures of his and Irene’s families. Before Barbara and I had to head back to Kampala on the bus, we took a nice walk around their neighborhood. Mbale is northeast of Kampala at the foot of Mt. Elgon, which is the home to Sipi Falls, a popular tourist site. On a Saturday afternoon, everyone was out and about and the children kept darting into the streets and seemed to be collecting something. I had noticed quite a few small flying creatures as we walked but it turns out these are flying white ants and they aren’t always around. When they do come, the children like to go and gather them, pull off their wings and fry them in a pan. Then they are salted and eaten as a snack. No, I didn’t try any…
The return bus to Mbale was to leave at 4pm and when we purchased the tickets earlier, we were told to return by 3:30pm, which we did. The bus wasn’t there yet, but did show up about 4pm. Glad to be leaving close to on-time for the long journey home, Barbara and I eagerly boarded the bus and took our seats way up in front- with a great view of the road. Irene, James and Migel headed back home but Barbara and I just sat, and sat on the bus waiting for departure. It turns out that they decided not to run the 4pm bus because it wasn’t full and so the next bus time back to Kampala was 5:30pm, which is about the time we finally got on the road. It seems that this is probably not that unusual for Uganda. The beginning of the trip back was uneventful and proceeded nicely but after we passed Jinja, about 2 hours outside of Kampala, we started to have back ups and lots of traffic. Finally right outside of Kampala the traffic came to a creeping stop and go and we didn’t arrive at the bus station until 11:07pm, 5&1/2 hours later. Needless to say, we were all hot, tired, and grimy. Thankfully my driver, Haji, was waiting to whisk me back to Edge House where I showered and settled in to a great night’s sleep. All in all- a wonderful day!