It’s hard to believe but it has already been a whole week since I arrived in Uganda! It’s only now that I feel as though I’ve finally started to settle in and begun getting my bearings for this place back again. Sticking to tradition, I’ve done nothing half-heartedly and have literally thrown myself in headfirst and learnt a few useful lessons along the way. Below are a few I thought I would share.
Lesson one: the pace of life here is not the same. On my second day in Lira I quickly learnt that as much as I would like to try, I cannot operate at the same speed or the same intensity as I do at home. In Sydney, I’m used to being busy and constantly on the go and often find myself feeling inefficient at times when I have nothing to do or no one to see. Over here however, everything is done at a sloooooowwwww and leisuuuuuurelyyyy pace and your daily activity is somewhat limited. So goodbye efficiency, hello frustration! On this particular day, the sun was beating down from about 9am so I decided to walk into town early, to withdraw some money. Once I reached the bank, it suddenly dawned on me that I had not set a new pin for my keycard and was therefore unable to use it. So I trekked back home, eventually set a pin (after battling with the internet for more than an hour) and set out again at about 11:30am. Well, two walks in one hot day is obviously one too many and I soon found myself struggling to make it back to my room before the heat stroke struck. A couple of dashes to the bathroom, a few thousand bottles of water and an afternoon in bed later and I was back to feeling fit as a fiddle. Needless to say, I’ve started copying the locals – dawdling instead of walking and resting at times when it is too hot to step outside. To be fair however, my dawdle would still bowl most over in the street but at least I’m trying to fit in. It’s a work in progress.
|Local food – beans and cassava|
Lesson two: waiting is the norm and not the exception. I have never been very good at patience and I’m sure there will be many who chuckle when I say ‘African time’ has to be the best joke God ever played on me. A meeting set for 10am actually means the attendees will start arriving sometime around 10:45am-11am. The meeting itself won’t actually begin until around 11:30am – and that’s if you’re lucky! Meal times take up half your day because the food will be ready more than hour after you order it and the condition of the roads makes it difficult to get anywhere directly, meaning your journey might be extended by hours at times. I would like to say that I’ve already mastered the ability to wait, that my anxiety levels don’t rise each time I sit for hours on end, but I feel this is something that might take me the full four months of my stay to, at the very least, pretend I’m coping.
Lesson three: public transportation was not made for comfort. I swear I will never complain about the public transportation system in Sydney again (or at least for a few months after I get home)! Here, a taxi that should seat 8 people will carry more than 12, piling bodies one on top of the other, it is surprising that a small Toyota Camry can actually heave itself out of the town bus park! My first experience with taxis came when I went to visit a friend in Gulu (about a 2 hour drive from Lira). Like a local, I crammed into the little space of seat that was left and prayed that the car would make it and not break down half way there. Air conditioning comes in the form of open windows only so by the time we eventually arrived in Gulu, I was sporting a glorious, red dust tan with the added bonus of ginger hair. And that was just on the way… The main mode of transport in town is ‘bodas’ (or motorbikes) which lack any kind of suspension and provide very little cushioning for one’s bottom. On top of it all, playing chicken with oncoming traffic seems to be a driver’s favourite sport and road accident’s are an hourly occurrence. It’s an experience to say the least, each and every time you travel, but one I’m slowly coming to tolerate, if not even appreciate, as time goes on.
Putting all jokes aside, I’m beginning to really love the simple life that is mine for the next four months, even with all its quirks and frustrations. I have enjoyed eating like a local, speaking like a local and doing washing like a local and I’m sure there is much more enjoyment (and learning) to come.