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Colleen Higgs

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

A few random observations about Uganda

Men in uniforms with rifles walk slowly up the hill to their work
The Nile Perch has decimated the endemic fish in Lake Victoria thanks to the intervention of a clever Western scientist
In Lake Victoria you will find bilharzia and crocodiles
The staple food is matooke – mashed cooked green bananas served with a ground nut sauce
Uganda has no seasons. People speak English, especially in Kampala
MTN, Shoprite, ESKOM, GAME and Woolworths ply their trade
To get from A to B you can walk, take a bicycle taxi or a boda boda (scooter taxi), a minibus taxi, a bus or hire a ‘special car’
You can buy a handful of robusta coffee beans in a banana leaf twist, chewing a couple has the effect of drinking a cup of coffee (although it doesn’t taste as good)
Roasted grasshoppers and certain roots that enhance sexual prowess (perhaps the active ingredient for Viagra?) are available to buy
On the streets of Kampala you can also buy upholstered armchairs, silencers, bananas, airtime, colourful cloths, shoes, cooked food, four poster beds, roasted g-nuts, cold water in plastic bottles and many, many other things
You might see homemade wooden wheelbarrows
The man who collects the money on a taxi is called “conductor” and asked politely to stop up there
The traffic seethes like a river flowing in two directions, while rush hour is called “jam”
I didn’t see a motorway and the hotel International at Muyenga was built
before developers became obsessed with cost/square metre
The currency is the Uganda shilling
Mahatma Ghandi’s ashes were scattered into the Nile close to the Source where the river leaves Lake Victoria
Large billboards remind people to take the HIV AIDS medication, while others ask parents “Do you really want your young daughter to have sex with this man?”– the question is accompanied by a picture of a man in his 50s. The Queen of Buganda (one of the four regions) has taken a stand against intergenerational sex.
The national sports stadium is named after Nelson Mandela
I saw no cats and dogs, no donkeys, but many goats and chickens, crows, kites and mosquitoes

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    November 25th, 2008 @12:21 #
     
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    Colleen, you bring it all back so vividly. I'd add: the scent of the air as you exit Entebbe airport: water, woodsmoke and nutmeg. And on the posters asking "Do you want your young daughter to have sex with this [oily 50-something] man?" the small print continues: "So why are you having sex with his daughter, then?"

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    November 25th, 2008 @12:24 #
     
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    Didn't see that, my eyesight... forgot to take my specs with me :)
    yes, the smells

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  • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    November 25th, 2008 @12:55 #
     
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    matooke sounds tasty -- fruit and nuts, exactly what I like to eat!
    Thank you for posting this Colleen, I'm loving reading your impressions, and now I'm going over to read your post Helen.

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    November 25th, 2008 @13:04 #
     
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    Yeah, very vivid. So, did you try any grasshoppers?

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    November 25th, 2008 @19:25 #
     
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    Thanks Alex!

    No, Rustum - I was adventurous (sp?) enough to get a ride on a 'boda boda' but I drew the line at grasshoppers (and in fact I didn't eat goat either. I swam a few mornings in the large pool disobeying the rule to only swim after 8 am. The hotel staff discreetly ignored me, while the other guests were nowhere to be seen before 8 am.

    Did try the matooke, which was good. Although quite weird eating this huge (in some cases) hot meal in the middle of the day washed down with Miranda Grape or Stoney ginger beer.

    So, Rustum have you worked on your costume yet?

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  • <a href="http://fionasnyckers.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    Fiona
    November 25th, 2008 @20:21 #
     
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    I want to know who was brave enough to take a dip in Lake Victoria where the crocodiles "seldom" attack people - or whatever the exact wording was of the promotional material.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    November 25th, 2008 @20:45 #
     
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    We didn't get close enough to take a dip in Lake Victoria, but for pics that includes a painting of a close encounter with a crocodile you can go to this link - http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=69022&l=a42ac&id=538696078

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  • <a href="http://rustumkozain.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    November 26th, 2008 @12:39 #
     
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    Why weren't guests supposed to swim before 8am?

    I'm thinking of a dress; work will have to involve the waistline.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    November 26th, 2008 @12:53 #
     
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    There was a Set of Swimming Pool Rules which no-one adhered to, being such a stickler, I did pretend to shower first, but swam out of Regulation Hours.

    I don't think any of the other writers swam, although perhaps they were also swimming out of Regulation Hours, Helen?

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  • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    November 26th, 2008 @12:56 #
     
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    Like sharks, crocs tend to wake up in a foul mood, which improves as the day progresses.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    November 26th, 2008 @15:45 #
     
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    I kept meaning to swim. And then waking up almost too late for breakfast, much less anything more strenuous. I think the rules had something to do with the fact that every child who went near the pool shrieked joyously from the moment they approached until they went hoarse or the adults went deaf. On the morning of the first day, our workshop was interrupted by what sounded like a trillion starlings. It turned that one of the local schools used the hotel pool to teach their kids to swim. Why don't we do this??? Um, better not answer that.

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