Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I Like Kampala in August, How About You?

I was in Kampala from Saturday, August 1 until yesterday (Tuesday, August 11).
We went to have some meetings with doctors there, and so Tamara could do some work.

I like Kampala a lot.
Good things: Very cosmopolitan, fun and active nightlife and lots of good food. Also remarkably safe.
Bad thing: Traffic. New York is nothing compared to Kampala. It is a city seriously in need of urban planning. Going anywhere between 4pm and 7pm means not going anywhere from 4pm to 7pm. You just sit there.

We stayed at a house (a friend of Tamara's) in a neighborhood called Mbuya. It was very pleasant - a big yard with trees, a nice house with a little tiny house out back for us to stay in (bathroom + bedroom). They had guard dogs on the property who really enjoyed barking, especially at cars. Two of them came to really like me, and would always come to me to be petted, but whenever we arrived in a car, they would go nuts barking. This dog is peering through the little hole in the metal gate as we arrive.

We had lots of good food in Kampala, including Thai, Indian (fancy, regular and Thalis), German, brunch, good coffee, Persian, Chinese, Turkish and Italian. There's even a place called New York Kitchen, where you can have burgers, pizza, bagels, and even lox! I had egg salad on an everything bagel, and it was delicious. It had nice herbs, almost like deviled egg salad.

We also did some fun stuff. We went bowling with some people who worked for Tamara when she lived in Kampala.

Before bowling, we had dinner in the food court in the Garden City mall, where there are a lot of international fast food places. It's a weird setup - there are waiters for the fast food places, and as soon as you sit down, they all surround you (maybe 12-15 people) and shove menus in your faces and try to get you to order from their place. It's overwhelming, and especially bizarre since I have noticed that Ugandan merchants seem to be much less aggressive than in other countries like Kenya and India. They usually don't pressure you to buy things or bug you by talking constantly and offering random things. They just tell you the price, and negotiate a little. And even more interestingly, the mzungu tax doesn't seem to be very high at all. Many of the prices you get are close to or the same as what the Ugandans get (it's just a little harder to bargain down, but I hate bargaining anyway - I just do it a tad to save face and then give up and buy or don't buy).
Anyway, the fast food waiters (oxymoron?) are pretty active, but they calm down as soon as you pick one menu and order.

The next night we went to a bar called Bubbles O'Leary for Trivia Night. As you can imagine, it was chock full of mzungus. But it was very fun, until it fell apart. Apparently the people who usually design the questions got stuck in Sudan. They had to improvise some questions, and when they ran out, they started doing a capella karaoke, and it turned tragic and painful.

I had a great time in Kampala, but I was glad to get back to quiet, peaceful Tororo, where the worst traffic jam you can have means you see more than one car on the road at the same time. Still, I'm glad that Kampala is only 3 hours away on a newly paved, remarkably smooth road.

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