travel journals for uganda, east africa

Crossy Roads

Dec 2, 2020

We had to go to downtown Kampala to do some shopping. I wanted to find some unique African fabrics as well as craft items we could explore exporting and selling in the US. As a result, we parked the car near downtown and began hiking around, crossing the busy intersections to get to the other side of the street. If you’ve been to any developing country, you’ll know that “crosswalks” aren’t really a thing yet, so getting across the street always feels like you’re playing chicken with oncoming traffic. In fact, if you’ve ever played “Crossy Road” on your phone, it’s basically a real life version of that. The downtown scene looks like a combination of a typical downtown mixed with flea market vendors everywhere. There are certainly areas that are “less safe” than others, as I had to keep my camera put away and was advised by a local to wear my backpack on the front of my chest to make sure no won snuck anything out of my bag. You have to practice “defensive walking” to make sure you are very aware of your surroundings, constantly looking behind and all around yourself. After only a few minutes you can become very stimulated between all the sights, sounds and smells.

Unfortunately in a place that is already known for theft it doesn’t help being white. You definitely stand out. Right now especially there aren’t many visitors in the country so it’s shocking for many to see you there. Coming to Uganda you feel what it means to be racially discriminated against. People either judge you with their long stares or just plain blurt out things at you. In that moment you have a chance to either be offended or be a blessing to them. Most really just want you to acknowledge them. I often try to give a smile and a wave. Both kids and adults want to have a “muzungu” (white person) see them. One day we were leaving one of our schools, and I called the security guard “sir” as I walked out. My friend Angel told me that what I had said was so kind and that he would be so happy the rest of the day because I called him that.