• Sharon Kelly

The Pearl of Africa: First Impressions

My first African country.

It's a bit jarring at times.

The sounds... the songs of one of the over 1,000 bird species found in Uganda; the cows mooing; the roosters crowing; the pigs squealing

as they are hogtied, assumedly to be taken away to be slaughtered; the dogs barking, howling and yelping as they fight each other

The people... the constant staring as you are virtually the only Caucasian person around; the children waving and calling out 'Muzungu', a term Ugandans use to refer to anyone who is from outside East Africa; the men & women approaching your car as you are stopped in traffic selling everything from food to car accessories to toilet paper; the number of people walking along the roads, even in the dark and on the highways

The sights... of 3 or 4 people crammed onto a 'boda', a motorcycle taxi; the trucks loaded down with bananas or wood with several men just sitting on the top of the piles; the meat hanging at the butchers with the flies buzzing around; the chickens picking through the garbage dump; the young children wandering around, sometimes barefoot, or left alone to just sit in the dirt; the security officers everywhere, from using a handheld metal detector on anyone entering a bank, to using mirrors to look under cars entering a shopping mall parking lot as the passengers have to get out to walk through the metal detector

The dust - I don't know if some of my clothes will ever be clean again

The traffic in the capital city of Kampala - I'm used to large volumes of traffic but it generally behaves in an orderly fashion; based on what I've seen, order doesn't always exist

The heat - Uganda sits on the equator so the sun feels so much stronger, just walking a short distance often leaves me panting and sometimes soaked in sweat

Setting these differences aside - and that's all they are, just differences - Uganda is a beautiful country, with lush, green rolling hills and warm friendly people (the staring gives way to a smile if you smile and/or say hello). The longest river in the world has its start in Uganda, starting from Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world that also lies in four other East African nations. The street food, despite it seeming a bit unsanitary at first to this westerner, is tasty, cheap and most importantly, safe. The stores, although for the most part vastly different to what I am used to, do stock the basics and more western style stores are available in Uganda's two main cities - Kampala and Entebbe.

This journey was about seeing the world and how others live in it, truly experiencing 'life outside the office', so while first impressions may have been jarring at times, overall it's been a good first impression and I'm glad I took the opportunity The Pearl of Africa.

clockwise from top left: the green rolling hills; Lake Victoria; Mitiyana, where I am based; typical stores in the more rural areas; the bodas; chicken and chips from a street vendor

#firstimpressions #ThePearlofAfrica

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