Surprisingly, Uganda is a vehicle culture, but all the clearly defined rules that you take for granted on first world streets are gone. Bicycles, pedestrians, motorcycles, animals, and LOTS of cars mingle freely at 100kph without any clear rules or expectations. For example, we might pass a car in front of us by passing into the oncoming traffic (honking twice to inform everyone else of our intent), only to be confronted by a oncoming truck. Instead of returning to our lane to allow the truck to pass, either the truck or our vehicle might swerve onto the far shoulder, and for a moment all three vehicles would be side by side heading in opposite directions. At the same time, any bicycles, boda bodas (motorcycle taxi's), animals, or pedestrians that were using the shoulder would need to quickly get the hell out of the way to make room. I kept expecting disaster, somehow third world road instincts make it all work.
Needless to say that my first road trip was thrilling, terrifying, and utterly real.
Our first stop was a modern supermarket, just like an African Safeway, called (and I'm not making this up) Uganda Valu. I am staying at a rooming house in a compound that the orphanage runs, and I am expected to provide most of my own meals and I had to stock the fridge. I will do an entire entry on food in the near future, but it was surprisingly easy to buy familiar stuff. I bought a stove top coffee percolator and Ugandan coffee and it's excellent. My biggest fear about leaving home is not having coffee and that is no worry here.
After a shower and lunch I decided to go for a walk. The rooming house is in a strange neighbourhood. It's a genuine third world slum, complete with shacks, garbage, animals, and lots of babies, but mixed with walled compounds and manor houses. The streets are made of hardened mud with ample garbage ground into them, but it's not odd to see a Range Rover or a Mercedes roll through, the children and the chickens scattering in its path. In this photo you can see a rather nice plantation style manor right beside a cluster of shacks and the market area that forms the center of this 'town'.
However, despite the non-intuitive mixing of classes, everyone here strongly insists that the city is perfectly safe, even at night.
Once outside the compound I was confronted with my first ethical dilemma. I must admit that I feel an initial self consciousness about pulling out my expensive, conspicuous camera and turning it on the locals. I will get more used to it, that's why I am here, but it feels strange pointing something so expensive at someone so poor.
I ventured around the neighbourhood, Kitunzi, in a glowing, shell shocked, jet-lagged daze, still not having slept. I asked people if I could take pictures of them and they let me.
Eventually we found a cafe and stopped for a refreshment. The sun went down and as I drank a local beer, Nile Lager, all I could think was 'Holy F**k, I really am in Africa'.