It is early in the morning, 1:21a to be exact. I am bit frustrated by the difficulty in connecting on line or by phone. Even in the darkness of this early morning hour, I see the white walls, white floor, white closet doors, white lamp and white furnishings of our apartment on Kololo Hill Lane. The disparity of the bright monotone of our interior surroundings and the apparent affluence of the neighborhood, emphasizes the extreme inequity that exists just outside the sliders of my room. Beyond the tall concrete wall is a cluster of one room mud houses and structures with peeling paint all with rusted metal roofs, some held down by scattered mud bricks.
Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, blends the worst of a civilized city – the jam, the cars, cell phones, and much commerce, with the decay, dirt, delapidation, deprivation and overall neglect of a developing country. As our driver David said, no need to wash a car, as the roads are mostly unpaved with deep ruts and “sleeping policeman” speed bumps that would surely wreck most cars, but seem to be tolerated by the jeeps here.
Public transportation is primarily on boda boda riders, which are the fastest yet most dangerous way to get from point A to point B, such that there is a casualty ward at Mulango Hospital exclusively for them. As Esther describes, the young men come from their villages up country and buy a bike as their way to what they feel is a promising, resource-rich urban life.
The mashup of boda bodas and cars on the crowded city streets during almost every hour of the day is thrilling and frightening. Everyone from those in cars, to those on boda bodas, to those carrying their wears a top their heads to those determined to cross the street are neccessarily agressive, as it is a veritable survival of the fittest for who seek success in arriving more or less on time to their chosen destination. Near misses are commonplace, passing within barely a few inches is the norm. Activity on the street is always active. Throngs of people at all hours either sitting on the steps, standing in crowds, coming and going, selling their wares, boda bodas lined up waiting for a fare.
Coke and Fanta are everywhere, one sees women directing traffic, working in construction and pumping gas in the formal attire of a skirt and jacket. There are two predominant newspapers often for sale by men weaving in and our of the cars on the street, also with sun glasses, and toilet paper in hand. The Daily Monitor is more progressive and at time critical of the government; New Vision is the voice of the government.
The highlight of my day was going with Esther to pick up her children at school. Walking onto the huge, well planned and landscaped campus, it was the closest I felt to being back in the states. Children of all ages from nursery and preprimary to primary and secondary were delighting that it is Friday and running to their parent or playing with friends. I was interested to see that all parents go to the classroom to pick up their children as this is norm to protect the child . Esther and I first went to a pre-primary classroom to pick up Denzel, who is highly curious and a total joy. Then we walked over to P3 and gathered Daphine whose smile adds sunshine to any day and who walks with a vibrant step, and lastly we walked up a few flights to P7 to meet up with Dorris, who beautiful eyes fully engage and whose maturity is apparent. I also learned from Esther’s beautiful children that it is common to name one's children with the first initial of either parent’s name. For Esther her kids are Donald (away at a secondary boarding school), Dorris, Daphine and Denzel. For Clover's president Salma, her children are Akram, Axum, Akriff and Abasi.
Tomorrow the Clover board meets to discuss next steps before Clover US departs. We've learned so very much from our team and the meetings we had with potential partners and technical advisors.
More to report en route home.