5 Things I Love About Kampala…but probably shouldn’t

29 07 2010

I have just returned to Kampala after a month in the States.  A lot has happened here while I’ve been gone that I should have been writing about.  The bombings, the African Union Summit, the deportation of thousands of Rwandan refugees…all important, timely, newsworthy things.  However, the wonderful feeling of homecoming I experienced coming off the plane has put me in a philosophical mood, and I have decided to focus on the timeless things rather than the timely things.

In that spirit, here are the ­­­five things I love about Kampala but probably shouldn’t:

The Driving.  C’mon, let’s face it.  When another car is in your way, it is really cool to be able to just drive up on the sidewalk to get around it.

The Corruption. Yes, corruption is probably the number one problem holding Africa back today.  However, (he says sheepishly), there are times that it is really convenient.  Like if you should just happen to come out of the airport parking lot and neglect to go all the way around the traffic circle before heading for the exit.  I figure it balances out all the times I get pulled over for absolutely no reason at all.

Driving a big ol’ dirty diesel 4×4 without really feeling guilty.  As an environmentalist, if I was still living in the U.S. I could never allow myself to drive the car I drive here.  I just couldn’t justify the emissions or the low gas mileage, and I love feeling superior to those people driving Cadillac Escalades on Los Angeles streets that have never seen a flake of snow.  At the same time, I will admit to being a bit of a closet car-guy.  I like trucks, and learned to drive a stick-shift off-road at the age of 11 in the deserts of California, while undoubtedly doing irreparable damage to thousands of years of cryptobiotic soil development.  Of course I feel guilty about that now, and see good gas-mileage as the measure of all that is holy.  Here in Kampala, though, the equation is different.  This is one of those wonderful places where you sometimes need four-wheel-drive just to get around the urban core.  My Pajero has a trailer hitch that rests a good two feet off the ground when it is level, but there have been several times recently that I have gotten it hung up on the edges of potholes in the Industrial Zone, Kisimente, Bugolobi and, believe it or not, Kololo.  I hope the city never fixes them, or I might need to get a more responsible car.

The Pollution and Burning Trash. Strange, right?  How could anyone possibly love that smell?  Well, here’s the thing.  Scent is the sense most connected to memory, and every time I emerge from the purified, sterilized air of an airplane into the raw, honest air of a developing world city, I feel like I am stepping out into every place I have ever traveled to.  It stirs up a feeling of adventure in me that sends me right to the nearest world map.

The Humidity. It just makes my hair nice and bouncy.  ‘Nuff said.

There.  Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I’ll try to make my next post a bit more enriching.  I hope you love the place where you live, too.

Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala

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15 responses

8 01 2011
kendra

nice bouncy hair…that made me laugh out loud! great website–thanks!

8 01 2011
Mark Jordahl

Thanks! Glad you like it.

Mark

30 07 2010
Celina

Nice! I will definitely always remember driving with you in Kampala and through the sugar cane fields!

Thanks for all your posts – I am glad to stay connected to Kampala and Uganda if mainly by reading about it from you. 🙂

Take care Mark!

29 07 2010
Wolfgang

Welcome back to pollution, potholes and all the rest you so eloquently wrote about …
W.

29 07 2010
Mark Jordahl

Thanks! It’s great to be back. Will you be at the fundraiser for JGI tomorrow night with Jane Goodall?

I read your piece about the Ssesse Island sinking. What a terrible thing. I hope you are right that it might stir up some energy around getting safety standards in place.

Mark D. Jordahl Conservation Concepts 256 775 295 126 Blog: https://conserveuganda.wordpress.com Website: http://www.ConservationConcepts.net

29 07 2010
raphe

This is why your driving, Mark, makes the top 40 list!!

29 07 2010
Mark Jordahl

The problems come when I try those maneuvers in the U.S.!

Mark D. Jordahl Conservation Concepts 256 775 295 126 Blog: https://conserveuganda.wordpress.com Website: http://www.ConservationConcepts.net

29 07 2010
Michael Brady

This was a good one. Sorry, have to disagree on the smell (but agree with everything else).
MB

29 07 2010
Mark Jordahl

It’s all in the nose of the beholder 😉

Mark D. Jordahl Conservation Concepts 256 775 295 126 Blog: https://conserveuganda.wordpress.com Website: http://www.ConservationConcepts.net

6 08 2010
Aaron

Your mention of the smell warms my heart. I have such a clear and distinct memory of the smell the first time I stepped off the BA plane in Entebbe. Now to smell burning garbage (in rural Canada) always takes me back the village in Kalangala we called home.

Thanks for the smile,
Aaron

6 08 2010
Mark Jordahl

Glad it brought back some good memories! Kalangala’s not a bad place to call home, nor is rural Canada. Thanks for reading!

Mark D. Jordahl Conservation Concepts 256 775 295 126 Blog: https://conserveuganda.wordpress.com Website: http://www.ConservationConcepts.net

29 07 2010
jennifer

FREAK!
Miss ya already. Glad it feels nice to be back.

29 07 2010
Mark Jordahl

Miss you, too. I still think there must be some snow leopards here in Uganda for you to come save. The Trust should send you here on a scouting mission.

Mark D. Jordahl Conservation Concepts 256 775 295 126 Blog: https://conserveuganda.wordpress.com Website: http://www.ConservationConcepts.net

29 07 2010
Josie

Loved reading this!! Made me feel a little Uganda-homesick! I learned to drive in UG, and was the most “Ugandan” Muzungu driver ever. The BFL girls once told me that I was a way crazier driver than Devin – I took it as a compliment!

29 07 2010
Mark Jordahl

Once you’ve learned to drive here, you can drive anywhere! Funny that they compared you to Devin. She certainly doesn’t take any flack from anybody on the road! Hope you and the fam are doing well. We’d love to have you back here any time.

Mark D. Jordahl Conservation Concepts 256 775 295 126 Blog: https://conserveuganda.wordpress.com Website: http://www.ConservationConcepts.net

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