Weekend in Kampala

It is about time that I write in more detail about this amazing city that I have been living in for the past two-and-a-half months.  After all the time I have spent here, it feels like I have only skimmed across the surface of this full and active place.  To describe this city is difficult.  It is almost easier to describe a few specific details about it that when pieced together might paint a loose picture.  This past weekend was a particular full and eventful weekend that gives an idea about what it is like to live here.

On Saturday morning fellow intern Katherine and I had arranged to go fabric shopping in the downtown with some other women from eMi.  Katherine and I decided to go early however, because Katherine was looking for sports shorts and I was looking to purchase a Uganda Cranes football jersey.  The first step of our journey is to walk to the main road until we can catch a ‘matatu’, a fifteen seater ‘taxi’ or bus, heading towards downtown.  The traffic is always crazy because there are no street lights or strict road laws.  It is a common occurrence to be in a complete stop and for the driver to turn of the motor for five or ten minutes until traffic gets going again.  ‘Bodas’ or taxi motorcycles boldly weave their way in and out of traffic as if they are invincible.  The trip takes only a half hour if the traffic is good, but can be much longer on a bad day.  The taxi finally arrives in downtown at what everyone calls ‘Taxi Park’ where there are literally hundreds of these vans all over the place headed for different neighborhoods in Kampala.

From ‘Taxi Park’ we wound our way by foot through the many streets to find an intersection where we knew there were many sports shops.  We almost lost our way as very few streets are named and the shops and buildings begin to look alike.  The terrain is quite hilly and the roads are often torn up.   Walking the streets of Kampala sometimes feels like a video game.  There are so many scents and smells, and things to dodge, and people grabbing your hand or calling out “mzungu” to get your attention.  Shopping is very interesting here.  There are a few shops that are more ‘official’ and organized like stores at home, but most of the shops are more thrown together and often sell used items or fake copies.  Unfortunately our search was not very successful; we discovered that they only sell kids shorts (which I suppose makes sense because adults rarely wear shorts here) and I couldn’t find my size Crane’s shirt in the colour I wanted.

We got a call from the other ladies saying that they had arrived to downtown, and so we headed out and began the trek back towards the Taxi Park and the nearby fabric district.  On our way back we noticed that crowds were beginning to form in the street, and that people were standing, waiting, and watching, as if they were waiting for something to happen.  Even balconies of the buildings above had people leaning on the railings and looking down to the street below.  Katherine and I began to be worried because we had heard reports that there had recently been occasional riots in the downtown.  We walked a bit faster, but had to dodge around a lot of people.  As we approached the Taxi Park we decided to take a detour and approach our destination by a back route to avoid the commotion.  We asked a woman what was going on and she said that the police were making several arrests in relation to a riot that at happened a few days earlier.

When we finally found the other ladies, we told them what was happening and they said that we would be fine as long as we didn’t approach that area.  We began fabric shopping and I found some nice African fabric.  At one point in our shopping, Carey made a comment about how many ‘mzungus’ were on a particular sign in one of the many hallways of fabric shops.  Then Brittany exclaimed; “That’s me!  That’s me on that sign!”  Lo and behold, it was her on the sign; it was a picture of her as an intern two years ago with two other female interns wearing traditional Ugandan dress for a wedding.  The shop must have found the picture online from someone’s blog.  Other people in the area were beginning to respond to the commotion and notice that she did indeed resemble the person on the sign.  The people in the shop didn’t really respond and seemed almost embarrassed.  Then at that very moment we were approached by a familiar face that didn’t belong.  It was Bethany, one of the international volunteers with the Congo Initiative at the UCBC in Beni.  We couldn’t believe that we had crossed paths!  She was in Kampala only a few days doing some shopping in preparation for her wedding the following week.  This was certainly a day full of extraordinary events.

Carey, Heather, and I stayed in downtown for lunch.  We went to a Ugandan restaurant where for the equivalent of two dollars each we had our fill of rice, beans, chipatis, and sodas.  On the way home Heather and I stopped at a local seamstress to check on the status of the dresses we had commissioned them to make.  The dress turned out quite well and only needed some taking in.  That evening we gathered at Sara and Carey’s house for games and a movie.  We ordered pizza, played some Dutch Blitz, and watched the movie ‘Clue’.  That evening we welcomed back intern Aaron who had been gone for a month working with a ministry in Ethiopia.

The following morning we woke up bright and early because we had plans to join some friends we had made from another ministry to go and teach Sunday school at a kids church located right outside of a slum.  It was an unforgettable experience.  Imagine entering a school room filled to the brim with children sitting shoulder to shoulder on rows of tightly spaced benches and there being next to no adults present.  We began with worship while kids were still coming in; the kids were full of an amazing energy as they sang praises to God, no instruments required.  There were children of all ages, with the older ones often carrying very young ones.  Eventually the room got too full and so worship moved outside.  Next there came the introductions as one by one we were asked to tell the group about ourselves.  Finally the large group of about 350 some children split up into three age groups and went back inside a few school rooms for Sunday school.  I was in the youngest age group and we taught them about the ‘Fruits of the Spirit’.  It was obviously a bit over their heads (love, joy, peace, big word, big word, big word…), but they enjoyed colouring their favourite fruit on a piece of paper and then sticking it onto the tree we had drawn on the chalkboard.  For lunch the kids each got a hard-boiled egg and a plastic mug of posho porridge before they headed back home.  It was really interesting to talk with the kids afterwards.  Their enthusiasm to come to church was inspiring and so was the fruit of the spirit that they so fully embodied despite their circumstances:  Joy.  Most of the kids come up on their own from the slums to go to church, some of them walking quite a distance to do so.  I was reminded how pure and unclouded the faith of a child is.

On our way back we decided to stop for a Sunday treat.  Our friends had told us about a gas station that had a hotdog and ice-cream stand and we were instantly enthralled with the idea of stopping there.  All I can say is that it was delicious and probably the closest thing I’ve had to hotdogs and ice-cream from back home.  Yum yum!  Already the day had been full but the adventures weren’t over yet.  eMi architect Robert offered to give me a boda lessons that afternoon.  After a bit of a bumpy start I managed to bring the boda around the parking lot a few times.  It’s a good thing I had gotten the run-down on manual drive before I came!  In Kampala ‘bodas’ seem to be the ideal form of transportation for a single person or a couple; not only are they very affordable here, but they can easily thwart traffic and the weather is almost always good.

What a weekend and what a city!



“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

-Galatians 5:22-26


“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

-Mark 10:14-15

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