The other night I was chatting with a friend’s mom. As a visitor to Uganda, she shared with me the two favorite aspects she liked about being in Uganda. I braced myself for the normal, “We love the wildlife,” or “The fruit taste like heaven.” Instead, she said she loved that the toilet seats were always warm due to the tropical weather and that the sun sets and rises at the same time every day.
I couldn’t help but laugh at the random things that stuck out to her about Uganda. Later on, I began to think about those small, easy-to-miss aspects about Uganda that are meaningful to me and quite a few came to my mind.
Someone pumps my gas
Can you believe it? In Kampala, they still have men and women who are gas station attendants at the pump. You roll up, tell them how much you want to spend and they do the rest. This definitely would be an even greater bonus if Kampala had winter. Needless to say, they are spoiling me and when I go back to the US it might take me a moment to come to my senses and get out of my car at the pump.
You can ask anyone for directions
GPS isn’t always reliable in a country where all the streets aren’t named or houses identified by addresses. You have no other option but to get creative. I do believe I’m going to miss it when I go back to the US and nobody is explaining directions like this, “Okay take a left at the plot of land with a brown cow and two goats, then go down until you see the half-built orange house with iron sheets and take a right. Keep going until you pass “God’s mercy supermarket” and then slope down to the black gate with gold design on the left.”
If the description-route fails you, no need to worry. Roll down your window and ask anybody walking on the street. They are always happy to direct you – or at least get you a little closer.
Being politically correct is ludicrous
I’m American. That means I’ve been taught to be offended by anything that is not said with sensitivity. I’m literally identified by my skin color almost everywhere I go with adults and children alike shouting, “MZUNGU!” Can you imagine in the US if I yelled, “Hey, white boy!” at someone walking down the street. I sat around the dinner table with a Ugandan family as they nonchalantly would say “black” this and “white” this and I have to retrain my brain to realize nobody is speaking in a malicious way.
In a way, I love that Uganda hasn’t become completely politically correct yet. It teaches me to lighten up. To remember we are all people trying to live in this crazy world together.
Hospitality that overflows
This is where Ugandans really shine. Their hospitality skills are something to emulate. If you are stopping by to visit someone, you will be brought either a beverage or food. That’s right. You won’t be asked If you want anything, it will just be placed in front of you to enjoy. I have to admit I didn’t like this at first. What if I was on a diet? Fasting? Wasn’t hungry or thirsty?
But I’ve quickly learned it’s rude not to accept something from the person you are visiting. Don’t panic. It’s not usually a five-course meal. A simple piece of bread with peanut butter is enough. The other day we went to visit our dear friend to see her new home. Although she has very little money, she still went to purchase bananas for Ashiram and I. That’s how deeply Ugandans want to honor their guests. It’s definitely rubbed off on me. I get upset now if someone stops by and I don’t have any soda or something to eat for a snack.
If I’m at the market, I can say I want tomatoes for 2,000 ugx, ginger for 1,000 ugx or bananas for 5,000 ugx. I get to have more control over my spending instead of someone dictating the price to me. The same is true with various utilities. You purchase what you can afford. I’m not going to get an electricity or phone bill at the end of the month. As I need minutes on my phone or units of electricity, I load them. It’s funny the things that you end up being grateful for.
Recent movies for rock-bottom prices
Movies and TV shows were never my cup of tea back in the US, but now I can’t get enough. I was so excited about a series I was watching when I asked someone in the US if they were watching it they quizzically responded asking if that was the TV show from years ago? Obviously, I’m late to the party, but I’m getting caught up on all the shows I missed out on. Somehow, Kampala gets movies shortly after they air. I remember Lion was still in the movie theaters when I left the US, but when I got here I could pick it up from the movie store for 2,000 ugx (like $0.75). This is probably illegal and I should pray about it.
What are some small things you love about your city, town or country? Share them with us in the comments below.