mad dogs and englishmen

The novelty of suncream, insect repellent and daily doses of anti-malarials soon wears off. But the novelty of not having to be at work or do household stuff… doesn’t, even if we have to pay for this for most of next year.

There are “big things” people go to Uganda for, and we certainly did them. Taking a little boat trip down the Nile was great, as was seeing the wildlife in all its glory. That sort of thing doesn’t really read too good though – “we saw Elephants” can’t convey the feeling of watching one get closer… and closer… to your car. We woke up one morning to find six warthogs cuddled up asleep, right outside our window.

But the real event for me was just wandering about, checking out what was going on, chatting to locals and expats alike, watching geckos on the wall cos if we called our travel insurer they could stop it all (allowing for the small print).

My partner always gets pissed off with me whenever we talk about travel insurance because I always, without fail, pipe up with my most excruciating I-Roy impression and say “repatriation is a must!!!” until she thumps me one. But you need to get home if something bad happens, so I guess that’s as good a way of remembering to have it in your policy as any. They’ll have it in adverts by the end of the year, mark my words.

If white people are a rarity in Uganda, then white kids are almost unheard of. Our daughter was treated like royalty in some places with kids crowding round her to get a better look. She even developed a great “her majesty” wave to do out of the car window as we passed people on the road.

Having kids is always a great bridge towards having conversations with random strangers (whether or not you want them) and we did all right for that. One time I came out of a shop to find my better half being chatted up by some guy. He was taken aback by my arrival, but ended up complimenting me on my fertility, which is pretty righteous – if not something to try out on random strangers down the pub.

Ugandan people are cheeful in the face of adversity, cliche or not. The shit that most people have to go through every day just to make ends meet is a bit of a slap in the face. None of this is helped by the endemic corruption, but I didn’t detect any aggression towards euro-tourists except a couple of minor isolated incidents. Everyone seemed up for having their photos taken but I felt bad about doing it too much and would feel worse sticking reams of them up here. Voyeurism… tourism… exoticism… “a holiday in other peoples’…”

One thing that really rocked was seeing how much stuff people could cram into cars, vans and on the back of knackered bicycles. We saw one bloke riding a bike with a whole bed strapped on the back, and seeing ten people crammed into a saloon car was an everyday thing. A good symbol of getting the most out of what little you have.

In fact ordinary Ugandans riding knackered bikes on really knackered roads is worth dwelling on. The roads are in a shocking state, but this doesn’t affect anyone with money because they all drive 4X4s and cruise over the vast potholes whilst everyone else bumps along. Someone said the guy in charge of roads where they live has a really massive house… I wonder why there’s no money to fix them pot holes?