A fair and balanced view of Kampala

Kampala is a bit of a puzzle. On the one hand, it really has a lot of things going for it. It's the financial, cultural and social capital of the country. If you're a looking for a good cup of coffee, or an air-conditioned screening of Harry Potter, or some mexican food, or even a Michael Jackson tribute concert, there's really no other option. In a country where the vast majority of people live in small towns and The Village, Kampala is first and last option for a little bit of city life.

For example, even though the coffee in Uganda is all grown just outside of Mbale, on the slopes of mighty Mt. Elgon, there's really no place to get a decent cup of coffee in town (Income-generating activity, anyone?). If that weren't enough, remember that we also drank coffee boiled in an aluminum pot for three months, so this is basically a little cup of heaven.

(If a bit excessive with the inscription)

Not to mention, when you just have to rub elbows with the rich and powerful, knocking back whistle-punishers like there's no tomorrow, Kampala is it. The bee's knees, as my great-aunt Trudie liked to say.

There's really just one tiny problem with Kampala...

(A bit of a jam)

Other than the traffic, it's not a bad place. The problem is, the traffic spoils everything. You can't really move around well in a car or a taxi because you get stuck in traffic constantly. Meaning you can either (a) jump on the back of a boda-boda and put your life in the hands of special breed of fearless maniacs who enjoy nothing in this life quite so much as veering through oncoming traffic to the gasps and screams of the terrified mzungu hanging on for dear life , or (b) grab another adult beverage and wait for things to calm down.

Of course, you can see and taste the air most of the time, because the traffic is so bad. Around nightfall, thanks to the exhaust and dust from rush hour traffic , there's a brown cloud about ten feet tall throughout the city. At the end of the day, you can smell the traffic in your clothes. If you're lucky enough to be staying someone quiet, you can hear it in the ringing of your ears.

So the thing is this. If they would just do something about the traffic, Kampala would be very OK. At this point though, the traffic IS Kampala. If Pauly Shore had stuck with his original dream of driving a garbage truck, he might not get beaten up trying to do stand-up. But some things just can't be undone, some things will never change and some sins (e.g., "Son in Law") are unforgivable, so you might as well stop beating your head against the wall hoping for a miracle.

(having trouble finding a sufficiently annoying picture of the Weasel wow. bonus top-up)

* * * * *

Anyway, after a quick trip, we're back home, safe and sound in Mbale, where the traffic is mostly bicycles and even the Supermarkets are overwhelmed with the slow, kind-hearted goodness of a small town.


  1. Very good essay. I feel a little clearer about the big city.


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