8 Things I Won’t Miss About Uganda
After ten years in Uganda, I will miss many things about the Pearl of Africa. But there are also some things that I will be happy to bid farewell to. The good greatly outweighs the bad, but it would be dishonest of me to not address the things that I will most certainly not miss.
Blinker Confusion: Figuring out what blinkers mean in Uganda requires a Master’s degree. For example, a right turn signal could mean, “I’m turning right,” “You shouldn’t pass because there is a car coming,” or “stay in your lane, bozo.” Then there are left blinkers, caution lights, and headlight flashes, all having 10+ different meanings. After 10 years in Uganda, I’m still never 100% sure what they are trying to communicate.
Staring Into The Sun: Normal polite rules for driving do not exist here. For some reason, Big Trucks, Busses, and public transport find it necessary to drive with their bright lights on from sundown until sunrise. I’m reasonably sure that with every oil change, the technician readjusts the headlights of every big rig to ensure that it has maximum blinding capacity. I’ll never understand this.
Unexpected Altitude Detours: Potholes in Uganda are special. In most countries, potholes will jar your suspension and rattle your brain loose a little, but in Uganda, some potholes take you deeper into the earth’s center of gravity. I once went so deep in an upcountry pothole that I drove on the earth’s mantle for 14 seconds. Driving on the mesosphere changes a person.
The Rat Race: Every country has rats, mice, and annoying insects, but most of Uganda’s pests have advanced degrees and are not susceptible to the traps of mere humans. After ten years of constant battle with rats, I have come to doubt my own intelligence. No trap can contain a Ugandan rat. Finding snap traps with bait gone, but no rat; Sticky traps often show the proper dance steps for the rodent waltz, still no rat; I’ve even seen rats sitting around a poker table smoking rat poison like Cuban cigars. I finally gave up and moved. Uganda rats are too smart for me.
12 Steps: I’ve never been enrolled in an addiction program but living in Uganda, you will quickly learn that EVERYTHING is a 12-step program. Nothing can be done at one counter. If you are at the hospital, you have to get an appointment for an appointment; there are 7 steps before even seeing the doctor. Then after being diagnosed, you go to the pharmacy, which has 5-steps of its own just for a bottle of Tylenol. I asked God for patience, He sent me to Uganda.
“Fresh” Fish: Scientists tell us that memory and smell are closely connected. I like seafood like the next guy, but the smell of the fish market can make you reconsider your life choices. Fresh fish, dried fish, salted fish, and flies, millions of flies. Once prepared, it all tastes fine, but the fish market is a location that should be avoided unless you want to lose your taste for seafood. Take my advice, walk the other way.
Noise pollution: Late nights can get weird in Uganda. I miss the days when your neighbor’s kids are throwing a party. That’s manageable. I don’t even mind a club playing Jay Z till 4 am, But here in the Pearl of Africa, they take it to a whole new level, and ‘churches’ are the biggest culprits. You might encounter “all-night prayers (in tongues) on loudspeakers with the treble maxed out” or maybe “a healing and deliverance service where they scream away sicknesses while stealing money from poor people.” Because it is religious, there is not much the authorities will do, so just make the best of it and up your ‘glossolalia’ game or buy noise-canceling headphones.
Big Man Syndrome: You won’t be in Uganda long before someone lets you know just how powerless you are. You may be a big deal where you come from, but one encounter with a bureaucrat will put you in your place. You will inevitably encounter someone who has been given some tiny bit of authority, and they are going to leverage it to make your life a living hell. It’s a little game that entertains for hours. Instead of informing you of all of the papers you need, they will tell you one at a time and stretch the encounter out over a week, just so that they can see your ‘smiling’ face. There is nothing you can do about it, just keep a good attitude and try not to make a jerk out of yourself.
Every country has its quirks. Uganda is no different. As much as I will miss living in this wonderful country, these are the things that I can’t wait to see in the rearview mirror.
It’s a small list, really. The good outweighs the bad, but I hope this list helps prepare you for the challenges, or if you already live there, maybe it will give you a chuckle.