15 Crazy Things I Will Miss About Uganda
Our things are packed, our house looks like a bomb went off, and the movers are coming tomorrow. We have seen our friends and said multiple goodbyes. It’s finally becoming real; we are leaving the place we have called home for ten years.
I have already shared with you guys that I will miss Uganda. I have even shared what I won’t miss about Uganda. But now, with humorous gratitude, I will share the final 15 things I will miss about the Pearl of Africa.
Mudflap mottos: Uganda’s truck drivers are a never-ending source of inspiration (and grammatical/spelling errors), from “Not today Satan” to “Latecomers Eat Bones,” or one of my favorites, “Grolly to the Rold, aka Glory to the Lord.” Almost every truck or bus on the road has words of wisdom painted onto the back of their vehicle. I have become a habitual tailgater to revel in the collective wisdom of the Ugandan truck driver.
Knowing your service providers: In the west, you don’t usually know your waiter, butcher, or grocer by name. But in Uganda, you will find the friendliest people in the world. Every person you meet is a potential friend. I know the names of most local service providers, but in many cases, I have also met their children and spouses. We share a more natural human bond. There is a lot that western society could learn from that.
The Police: I know some of you are rolling your eyes at this one. I totally understand because I, too, have had my fair share of negative interactions with the men and women (formerly) dressed in white. But for the most part, my interactions with the police have been polite and playful.
I know I was speeding, and they got me on the radar, but they know I’ve probably got a cold coke or two in the truck, and they are more interested in that than giving me a slip of paper. My experience has been that if you treat them with respect, be funny and ask, “Is there any mercy to be found in Uganda today?” You will be back on the road in no time.
BUT there is one exception if you see one of the dreaded big momma police ladies strolling towards your car, you are in trouble, and you are not getting out of it. Just apologize and take your ticket.
Bootleggin’ it: In my first few years living overseas, I was nervous about buying illegal bootleg movies & series. I would wear my hat down low and put on sunglasses thinking the FBI was just around the corner ready to pick me up for crimes against Hollywood (a slight exaggeration). But today, it is hard to imagine how I will manage when I can’t easily get any movie or series that I want uploaded onto my hard drive for pennies. I will have to subscribe to 5 streaming services to get the same content as one Funz Video.
Going NASCAR: Most of the time, I try to follow the traffic laws; I get annoyed at the drivers who make a one-lane road into three lanes. I sit (im)patiently while self-absorbed commuters squeeze in and create trouble for other drivers…BUT sometimes…I turn my hat backward, drop it into gear and drive like an MP with a police escort to get where I want to go. I have been known to follow at a barely acceptable distance behind ambulances and police convoys, maybe once or twice a year. It is truly liberating, and for about 30 minutes, I feel like Dale Earnhardt. But you know that you can only afford to chance it a few times a year, or it will catch up with you.
Greetings/goodbyes: In East Africa, a greeting is an important ritual. Every tribe does it a little differently, but it is a big deal. Americans could learn a lot from Ugandans in this regard. People are important, from the poorest to the richest, the oldest to the youngest, they should be acknowledged and greeted with respect. Likewise, saying proper goodbyes recognizes the importance of the history developed between two people and honors both the one who is leaving and who remains. Rather than lamenting the loss of these common courtesies in the west, I have decided to reintroduce them when I return.
Pit stops: Most of my time in Uganda has been in rural areas. We always seem to be driving somewhere, and with four children, someone always needs to go to the bathroom. But in Uganda, you don’t have to look for a gas station or fast food restaurant (and lose 30 minutes). You can just pull over, and everyone finds their own private bush or tree, boys on the right, girls on the left. Peeing on the side of the road is less acceptable in America. I will definitely miss this roadside convenience.
Surprise wildlife: While driving in Uganda, you never know when a herd of antelope will appear alongside the road, or a momma elephant slowly crosses the road with her newborn calf. You might even interrupt a tower of giraffes as they graze on the acacia trees. You don’t have to be in a game park to see the most majestic animals that Africa has to offer. It’s nice to pull the truck over and just take it in. I will miss that.
Torrential Downpours: I don’t know if it rains harder in Uganda or you just enjoy it more because of the sound of heavy rain on a metal roof. Regardless, it is a soothing experience that beckons you to just stop and enjoy the moment. Some of these rains are next level though. The roads surge with water, rivers form that weren’t there before, but it’s all part of the experience, sit back and enjoy. Don’t forget to wave at Noah as he passes in his ark.
International community: My friends here in Uganda are from all around the world. They speak different languages and have different cultural and religious beliefs. Still, I have greatly benefitted from the diversity of cultural perspectives. I never again want to live in a culturally homogenous environment.
Lively worship: Y’all Christians in Uganda do not mess around when it comes to church. The music is lively (sometimes a little too much), and the people are free to express themselves. Some dance, others jump, but everyone is free to worship how they like and express their faith in a way that feels right to them. I know that when I find myself visiting a stuffy traditional church in America, my mind will wander to the beautiful freedom of Ugandan worship.
Long road trips: I’m from Texas, so I can appreciate a 10-hour road trip, but they are different in the Pearl of Africa. The visual landscape changes as you drive from semi-arid deserts to lush tropical farmland. I love the drastic cultural differences as well. One moment you are surrounded by nomadic pastoralists, and the next moment you are among wealthy urban businessmen. The roads change from district to district as well. You may start on a modern tarmac but end your day with a truck covered in mud. The country is not too big, so take the time to enjoy every corner and its adventures.
Sunday morning rainbows: We often travel on Sundays when traffic is minimal. The most significant benefit to Sunday drives is all of the colors. In certain parts of America, they wait all year to see the leaves change colors and enjoy the diverse foliage. But every Sunday in Uganda, the brightest and most magnificent colors are on display as everyone puts on their best clothes and walks to church.
I love seeing the mothers made up in their colorful kitenge dresses, but my favorite is the children. Monday through Friday, they all look the same in their school uniforms, but their moms dress them in their fanciest clothes on Sunday, and they get to shine.
Waving children: It took me a while to get used to the friendly nature of your typical Ugandan, but the children are the most hospitable of all Ugandans. I was pleasantly surprised in the early years by the children walking in the road who would wave at strangers as they passed by. Their waves erupting into smiles and jubilation when their greetings are returned could warm the coldest heart.
Crazy outfits: I saved this one for last because it is my favorite. While driving down to Kampala (on a Sunday, haha) and brainstorming ideas for this post with my wife, we passed a Boda driver wearing a full-on pimp daddy fur coat. I almost broke my neck trying to look and see if I had seen that correctly. Another time, I was sitting outside a bank when I saw a man riding a unicycle in the flow of traffic wearing a Santa hat texting on his phone. Only in Uganda.
I know everyone loved my article on what I won’t miss in Uganda (1,300 reads so far), but this country and its people have been so good to us that I couldn’t end on a negative note.
Thanks for the memories, Uganda!