Tom Herriman's Journal
| | | | |
News and Views
October 12, 2007-Traffic and a pickpocket
I’m still so jazzed just by being here I can hardly stand it. Today I went off on my own for the first time…took a minibus taxi into town. The Kisa people were appalled that I would want to go alone. Andrew, my chief minder, wanted to come with me and drive me in and lok after me. But I insisted on going alone. The 14 passenger taxi runs along the main road, Hoima road into town, stopping to pick up passengers as it goes along. There are no marked stops. The driver honks anytime he sees a pedestrian going in his direction. Everybody hopes they will be the 14th person to get on, so the driver won’t be making any more stops for pick ups until they get to the end. The end in Kampala is New Taxi Park, a vast sea of dust or mud in the center of town where there must be 5,000 of these toyota minivans at any one time. From there you can walk just about anywhere or take another taxi, or ride a bodaboda…a scooter, moped or motorcycle that picks up passengers and takes them for short trips, weaving in and out of traffic in the most terrifying way imaginable. I don’t think I ever want to get on one. Anywy, I found a pretty good bookstore and two good coffee shops, one with wireless internet. I bought a little alarm clock in a shop, another electrical adapter and a bag of passion fruit from a vendor. From the second coffee shop, I walked to the national museum which was very nice. It was about a mile or maybe 1 ¼ miles and pretty hot, but not bad when there was a shady side. Great displays of colonial, precolonial and prehistoric. The Africans 5,000 years ago looked a lot like the Orkneyans of the same period…making ingenious use of local materials, inventing tools, trading stuff back and forth. It was a slow day, so a very nice lady guide glommed onto me and insisted I see everything. They even have a resident musician who let me play duets with him on the Madinda and then played a solo on the ngidibi…the little fiddle played by my friend in the copy shop who let me record him on Wednesday. After that, I found a fair trade crafts store where if you went in with $100 bucks, you could come out with armloads of very cool baskets, carvings, jewelery and all kinds of pretty nice stuff.
I stopped in a computer store and priced a desktop printer I might buy. It’s the HP D1460 and it was 90,000 shillings which is about $50…same price I would expect to pay at Fry’s. If you get a chance, could you price the same model for me in Seattle? Just curious. Only one bad thing happened on my trip…my camera was stolen by a pickpocket. Fortunately, I had downloaded all my pictures, so I’ll have to get a new one next week. The money is working out pretty well. My R&B is about $8 a day, so I paid that and paid for the internet hook up, and all the other odds and ends of things I’ve been buying and I still have pots of shillings, and a couple hundred bucks in US currency. Plus Lwanga has the $thousand that I gave him to transfer for me when he left in August.

But what I started to say is its just so exciting to be here, so stimulating. The kids at the school are incredibly cheerful and hardworking and affectionate, and physically they are stunningly handsome. The society is frothy mixture of traditional culture that is being walloped by free enterprise hustle. There’s a lot of petty crime and large and small scale corruption. People work incredibly hard, but most people are still incredibly poor. There’s very little road building equipment, for example…its all done by hand. Bicycles loaded with hundreds of pounds of wooden doors, bananas charcoal, re-bar, god knows what else, sweating men are pushing these bikes along the street in and out of traffic. Bought a pineapple from a front yard fruit stand just down the road from my motel and snacked heavily on when I rolled in from my city trip. They are juicy and sweet. I’m really tired. I’m going to the bed. I’m listening to moonswept on my ipod. All my electronic gear is charged up. When I hear the Muezzin n the morning, I hope I am recharged too.