I’m starting to find my (forever dusty) feet in Kampala. I now hop on the back of a Boda Boda without thinking twice, have become an accomplished haggler and am even starting to pick up a couple of words of Luganda (albeit no Ugandan has a clue what I’m trying to get across). I’ve adjusted to my daily diet of Matoke and beans, and have even tried Crocodile steak!
At work, I have been adopted by the Mamba clan and my colleagues know me by the Ugandan name they chose for me – ‘Nankya’ (pronounced, confusingly, ‘Naan-cha’). Although I often forget and unintentionally ignore them when they address me by this, to which I’m expected to respond ‘wan-jee!’ (yes, please!).
I’ve been a ‘gringo’ in South America and now I’m reluctantly getting used to being the ‘mzungu’ (white person) in Uganda. As a mzungu, I am constantly stared at, enquiringly beeped at by matatus (baffled as to why a Mzungu is walking everywhere) and am now used to the sound of children and adults alike chanting ‘Mzungu!!’ as I pass. Mildly irritating but often used as a term of endearment, it’s something a foreign expat in Uganda quickly grows accustomed to.
Kampala is an infectiously friendly place. Children stop in their tracks to wave manically at you and people instinctively greet you and tell you they’re ‘fine’ before you’ve even had chance to ask how they are. I’m mastering the mandatory custom of Ugandan small talk which took some getting used to since I’m from London, where anyone who tries to acknowledge let alone strike up conversation with a stranger, is treated with suspicion and more than likely ignored completely!
I walk to work every morning at Malaika Babies home and there’s always something different to see on my route – from children playing in the maize fields to women carrying the most enormous containers on their heads with awe-inspiring agility and poise. And the picture-perfect sunsets each evening never fail to stop me in my tracks as I trundle home.
Although I’m missing some of the home comforts and struggle with many aspects of Ugandan culture, it’s easy to be seduced by the chaos of Kampala. From the top of the Gaddafi Mosque, you get a sense of what a sprawling city it is – packed taxi parks and congested streets, hoards of people and frighteningly dangerous roads. It can be intimidating at times, and I’ve had a few near-misses on the back of Boda Bodas, but it’s also a fascinating place to explore. Although I remain reluctant to take my camera out with me much, for fear of attracting unwanted attention or offending people, it’s one of the most photogenic places on earth. My time here is nearly up so I’m planning on getting snap happy in my final weeks!