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I Blame Kampala: The Trauma of Living in Uganda’s Capital

There’s a popular saying that goes, “if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere in the world” side-eyeing Frank Sinatra who had clearly not been thrown into the chaos and cutthroat-city of other cities around the world. But we’re not here to compete in the olympics of cities that will make you choices. We’re here to talk about Kampala and how the wilding that goes on in this city will leave you at best hyper-alert, at worst traumatised. Where do we start? Kampala roads-Traffic-Public transport: This match made in a villain’s laboratory is a culmination of what small-small torture might look like. From the buses to the bicycles, using public transport is nothing less than a spectacle. But when you add potholes, the hot African sun, narrow roads, traffic, this melting pot turns into something that will churn any stomach.

To get the full experience of the full blown chaos of what this experience is like, you have to read this next part in one breath. Ready? Picture this: it’s so hot that you can feel your skin tighten; everyone is fighting for space on the narrow roads while trying to dodge massive potholes the size of a small cow including pedestrians who have no pavements to walk on; an overly excited boda boda rider has brought a very unwilling participant along on his “mission-impossible-stunt-double” practice run which at this point has turned into a lifestyle; a taxi conductor has likely severely insulted someone (maybe you) for either speaking to him in English or for giving him a large note of money for which he has no charge; meanwhile the taxi has climbed onto a small section of pavement to get ahead of the traffic and passengers are being tossed and tumbled around like salt in a salt shaker; it looks like there’s no end in sight to this traffic because someone with bad manners decided it would smart to create a third lane on the narrow road and has now blocked on-coming traffic; up ahead a motorcade tried to whizz past everyone else but they’re stuck too and won’t turn off their sirens that are screaming wiiyuuu wiiyuuuu and giving everyone a headache; everyone else in their private cars is either cursing the god of traffic...and all the while there’s a garbage truck that chose this particular moment to be on this particular road so the stench in the air...could be cut with a knife. We all get home and hope we can actually rest. Then your Yaka meter starts beeping but that’s another story. The Education System: Nothing has ruined most of us more than school. Education is supposed to be the key to success but most of the schools we attended didn’t encourage creativity, critical thinking beyond the information we were being fed or asking questions wasn’t exactly appreciated.

When we asked too many questions in school

Science is the study of living things and nonliving things. Period. There’s no room to question whether something can be both living and non-living. There’s no room to ask where magic falls in this mix if you don’t want to be smacked across the face. RIP to our young wondrous minds. Customer service:

There’s nothing quite like a Ugandan who receives quality customer service and feedback. We’ll tweet about it, blog about it, screenshot Facebook posts about it and share widely. We’re almost always shocked to be treated well yet this should be the bare minimum respect afforded to a PAYING CUSTOMER. When you aren’t made to dance the Bakisimba on your head for proper customer care, we ask who this mythological creature is. We’re so used to being treated badly, to be told with eye rolls and an exhausted scowl “you get what you get and nothing more”. Who bewitched us? Downtown: “Woe upon thee who does not draw upon wisdom of past days to traverse the wilderness of Downtown Kampala.” Anonymous You might have been younger than 10 when I learnt that you have to learn the artful way of holding your bag close to your body to avoid pickpockets. Around your teen years, you learnt the artful ways of swerving past “sista salun”, the “potebo”, “swit jeans” and everything in-between. You learn that there’s very little regard for personal space because everyone will touch you or at least try, grab your arm to pull you this way or stand so close that your skin starts to itch. Godforbid you ignore one of these vendors or tell them what they are doing is not okay. Hooo! (claps in “you are finished”). The abuse that follows will make you question yourself and your choices. We’re all somehow used to this kind of treatment, how normal and commonplace it is. Again, who bewitched us? In the midst of all this madness, we, the dwellers of Kampala love our city. It’s a dysfunctional relationship but there’s so much more thrill and goodness we have derived from it (like finding a good pair of jeans and more important things) that sometimes cancels out the madness we have had to live with. Are you adulting in Kampala? Traumatized yet?

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