Saturday, July 18, 2009

Experiencing An Ugandan Marketplace = Mosh Pit

On Wednesday, Renee (her and her husband oversee the short and mid termers) had me go with one of the mentors to learn the taxi system here. Now is a good time to explain these systems for you. There three main kinds of public transportation here: boda boda, taxi and special hire.

Boda boda's have been my main form of transportation. For those that didn't google image this, I give you this youtube video. 

For the most part, I've felt completely safe on these and they are truly the fastest way to get anywhere in Kampala. The down side is that you have to tell them exactly where to go and they may or may not know where it is. This makes it interesting as you negotiate the price beforehand and if you don't know where it is, it's hard to give a price. There have definitely been some frightening times as well. Today, actually, was probably the craziest boda ride that I've ever had. We went really far away (don't even ask me where) to meet up with Chris Biddix (a familiar face!!!) and holy cow, that boda. Kate, another mentor, was also on the boda so we had three on there (mom and dad, just stop reading now, ok? :)). We got into this crazy traffic and he started weaving in between cars and then we ended up driving on the SIDEWALK. But, we got there! They know what they're doing. Anyway, all this to say, they're the fastest way of getting somewhere. It's the middle of the three prices.

The second form of transportation is a special hire. This means that you call someone, they come to where you are and then take you directly to where you need to go. They know of more places than bodas which helps a lot. This is BY FAR the most expensive way to travel. So, Mom and Dad (if you're still reading which you SHOULD have stopped up there), if you want me to do this, then you need to send me LOTS of money. I'll give an example. The other night myself and two others went to a Thai restaurant probably about 15 min or so away from our house. We took bodas there and paid about 3000 schillings which is not even $2. Since it was so late when we finished, we called a special hire and paid 20,000 schillings to get back. Big difference.

The third form of transportation is taxi's. On Wednesday, I attempted to master the taxi system. Their taxi system is kind of like our bus system. There are certain places where they pick you up ( a very weird third world sense) and places where they drop you off. There's a driver of the taxi (which is a passenger van) and a conducter, who controls all of the prices, announces the end station that the taxi is going to and convinces people to get on the taxi. Once on, you have no idea how much he'll charge you until you're almost off. There is NO way of knowing when you're supposed to get off. There's no "Jinja Rd stop" yelled out. They just stop. You have to know where you're at to know if this is where you're supposed to get off. They also sometimes stop in random places for people but that's apparently just when the traffic police aren't around. This is by far the SLOWEST way of getting ANYWHERE. There's no definite time when they leave. They often stop and wait for more people to get on the taxi. This could take anywhere from 20-45 minutes. The traffic here is insane so adding that to all of the planned stops, unplanned stops, waiting for people to get on, etc. it takes forever. This is the cheapest way of getting around Kampala. 

Lonnah, one of Hope Alive!'s incredible mentors, took me on my first taxi ride to the taxi park in downtown Kampala. I don't even know how to describe taxi park. Imagine literally hundreds of passenger vans all scrunched together in a parking lot. Each one of these is going somewhere different and trying to get around each other. It's chaos. There's very few signs as to what taxi is going where. Insane. After we went there, Lonnah took me to a small market and then we went to the big daddy market of them all. It was literally like being in a mosh pit at a rock concert. Everyone was pushing to get through the tiny passage ways. I could barely look up at any merchandise because I was too concerned with where my next step would be. Lonnah held my hand throughout the day which is customary here...and probably saved my arms from being pulled off by merchants wanting the muzungo to see what they were selling. Unfortunately for them, the muzungo didn't even glance at their stuff. It was SO INSANE in there. After that, we walked to a craft market where they sold all sorts of Ugandan crafts. Lonnah said that she was tempted to buy so many things in the big market. I wasn't tempted there but got majorly tempted at the craft market! I've needed to add some life to my room so I bought a few things to make it more like home. We then took a taxi back and then boda-ed to the Hope Alive! office.

Thursday I spent going over the Hope Alive! database with Catharine. It was so good to see what I'll be spending so much time on! It will help me understand more of the intricate details that is Hope Alive! 

Friday is Catharine's day off and I will probably make it mine as well. With Saturday Club on Saturday's and then church and other ministry things on Sunday, our only day off has to be in the week. On Friday morning, I joined Catharine and Susan (another missionary who lives on our compound) as they ventured out to the oh-so-new Nakumatt! I've been to Nakumatt's in Kenya (think: African Wal-mart) but this one in Kampala is new. We ended up stopping at Garden City, a nice mall in downtown Kampala, before we continued onto Nakumatt. The night before our trip, I had a dream. On my list to get were a hair straightener (mine died! :( ), alarm clock and a pillow (I can't sleep on pancakes any longer). In my dream, Nakumatt had everything that I needed besides pillows. All they had were decorative pillows, not pillows to sleep on. I was super annoyed in my dream. We get to Nakumatt on Friday and I relayed my dream to Catharine. We laugh as we ask a manager to help us find the things that we were looking. It came to be that Nakumatt had NOTHING that I needed...besides a pillow, that is. Nakumatt made my dream opposite. We then headed to a different store which had everything that I needed. So random.

After our time at Nakumatt, Catharine and Susan dropped me off at a coffee shop where I grabbed a quick lunch before I headed over to Brian and Renee's. Brian offered to help me learn how to drive a manual car AND how to drive in Kampala. What a huge task! It all went so much better than I thought. After practicing on their manual van, he had me drive their automatic van out of their neighborhood, to a grocery store to get some things for dinner. 

Yes, I drove. In Kampala. In a van. 

Ok fine, so it was like 2 miles from their house. I had to cross this major road though which here is just insane. It gave me some confidence in driving here but hoooly cow, it is just insane here. Watch that boda boda video a couple times and just imagine driving in it with 100000 more cars on the road than that video showed. 

Thanks for all of your prayer for my driving! Keep them up! I need them desperately! 

No comments: