No, your eyes are not deceiving you – that is indeed a sofa being transported on the back of a motorbike or bodaboda to use the vernacular. The vast range of objects I have seen balanced precariously on these vehicles is beyond belief and ranges from chickens and goats to mattresses to hundreds upon hundreds of bags of popcorn and now furniture. I myself am yet to brave one of these rides as the thought of clinging on (side-saddle of course, because dignity is always favoured over practicality) whilst weaving through multiple lanes of dusty, pot-holey, honky-tonk traffic somehow does not appeal. In addition, I am generally carrying multiple shopping bags and woe betide anyone who values their potatoes so little that they allow them to bounce across the road. In fact, given the huge amount of traffic and the fact that the supermarket is at the top of the hill, said potatoes would probably beat me back home!
Nevertheless, the ingenuity of these bodaboda drivers is staggering and I am thus dedicating this blog to resourcefulness. Throughout the past fortnight I have pulled out of the hat a number of ingenious skills I did not know I possessed. These include playing hairdresser to two fellow interns with surprisingly successful results, fixing a loose bike chain for a young boy by the side of the road, fixing mosquito nets with socks and earrings and multiple evenings cooking dinner for 14 people with nothing but 5 ingredients, two hotplates and a bit of imagination. Unfortunately I’m not sure how many of these skills will be useful in my teaching career, but it’s nevertheless reassuring to know that if I decide I can no longer mark homework or teach vocab, I can become a hairdresser, bike mechanic or chef!
Other notable events this fortnight have included an excursion to the source of the Nile in a town not too far away called Jinja. We took a short hike across a field to get a look at the precise spot where Lake Victoria becomes the Nile and were promptly reprimanded for trespassing by a very scary-looking security guard carrying an even scarier-looking AK47. Politely excusing ourselves and blaming our Muzungu lack of direction, we hurried on our way. We also managed to successfully avoid any negative after-effects of a tear gas explosion that occurred at an innocent-looking football match we had previously walked past. We heard the bang and saw the stunned reaction of the bodaboda drivers but by the time we ambled our way back past the pitch, everything had cleared and we hadn’t felt a thing. We nevertheless deemed it high time to return to the camp site and, after a fortunate encounter with a knowledgeable banana lady, crammed ourselves (alongside 22 other people) into a 14-seater taxi (or ‘mattatu’). As we played human tetris trying to fit everyone in, it became apparent that there is no such thing as personal space and, by virtue of Ugandan courtesy, it is most impolite not to acknowledge the person sat on you and enquire how they are! Given that Londoners do not even make eye-contact with other passengers when riding the tube, this cultural expectation was quite surprising upon first encounter.
Yet, squashed-faces-against-the-taxi-window aside, Jinja was amazingly green, lush and – to my delight – cold! As a person with an inextinguishable internal furnace, it has not been easy to handle the permanent 28C/30C temperatures, so you can imagine how happy I was to at last zip up the jacket that has been hanging dormant and forlorn in my wardrobe since August. We also visited several markets and I am chuffed to say that 90% of my Christmas shopping is done!
I will leave it there for now. We are going on safari this weekend and I am SO excited! I have been challenged to a game of animal-dung bingo so the photos in the next blog might not be for the fainthearted!