Things I Could Do Without

Trip Start Mar 11, 2011
Trip End Mar 31, 2013

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I wanted to write this to show that life overseas isn't all amazing sights and glamour. I wanted to show that there are some not-so-fun things we deal with here too.  Life here is really great for the most part, but I wanted to show the other side.  Here is a bit more to create a larger, more realistic, picture.

-There are no safe walking areas.  (Unsafe, meaning it is you against every vehicle on the road.)  There are few if any protected pedestrian areas.  If you can fit, so can a boda boda (motorbike).  The only safe way of traveling is by SUV.  We really don't walk anywhere except to local markets and even that can be stressful and is avoided when there is a lot of traffic.  There is no such thing as walking the entire city with ease.  Sidewalks do not exist unless someone put them in front of their yard or building for decoration.  We regretted not ordering a car sooner (we had already ordered it a month ahead).  Our largest means of transportation has been through the Embassy Motor Pool, but at a cost of $.85 per mile. 

-Taxis are not cheap and charge "muzungo" (foreigner) prices.  We paid over $20 to meet friends at a local restaurant not even a few miles away.  I pay around $12 for a round trip to the local grocery store, in addition to paying the driver to wait.   

-There are black mamba snakes in my area, which I thought only existed way outside of Kampala.  Apparently we just keep an eye out and notify our guards or gardener who will kill them.  If we get too many we have to have kerosene sprayed around the area.

-Guards changing.  The guard company can change our guards at anytime without notifying us.  We showed up one day to find we had a new guard.  A few days later we had another new night guard.  Having random men put on your property can be a bit unnerving because it is their job to walk around your house every few hours to patrol and their guard areas on inside the gate on your property.  

-The dress code for women here is long skirts and modest tops.  I don’t think I will ever feel comfortable wearing jeans or tank tops outside of my home or a friend’s house.  It just makes me stick out too much and feel self-conscious.  The one day I wore cargo pants and a sleeveless top (not even tank type) I was harassed by 2 groups of local police.  Apparently dressing in my typical Western manner left me open to rude comments, gestures and being harassed.  The dress code for going outside my home is skirts longer than the knee, modest tops, wraps, and long dresses.  Most of the men wear slacks and button up shirts, even our gardener.  Some days I don’t mind it. Other days I am just tired of having to dress so modestly in such nice warm weather.

-Cameras are unwelcome.  I cannot (openly) take a lot of pictures here in the city of Kampala.  Every time I take my camera out I get a “look” or I am told by police/guards I am not allowed to take pictures. Local law states that pictures cannot be taken of any infrastructure, which is just about everything in the city of Kampala.  

-Lack of large outdoor markets.  I have yet to find a huge outdoor produce market. I was hoping we would have something like the huge markets we would wake up early to get to on Thursdays and Sundays in Guatemala.   

Most produce here is sold in small stands or inside grocery stores.  The thing to do is create your own garden and grow your own fresh produce.  

-Sticking out.  Being a mzungo every minute I am out the door wears thin.  There are few tourists here and there are days when the only foreigners I see all day are inside the Embassy.  I hear “madam” from local people more than I hear my own name.  It is very clear that I am a foreigner, but I wish there was an easier way to fit into the local culture.    

-Searches!!  Every store I go to I am stopped by a man with a shotgun wanting to search my car or bag.  Driving down roads could involve a random police check where I cannot pass a set up barrier unless police wave me through.  Yes, this is for my own safety, but some days it wears thin.  Imagine that every time you went to run errands (a quick stop at the grocery store) involved a vehicle check at the parking entrance and another check at the store entrance of your body (men) and bag (women).  Some days it isn’t a big deal, but other days it just wears on me.  It is a constant reminder of things I know could happen but don’t want to be reminded of.    

-Protest.  This is a whole other blog and something you can read about in the news.  The reality is that they happen and they affect our life.  Stability is not something I can expect here, but in reality it isn't something I have come to expect in life.  I am not publishing my opinion on the protest, but it is another not so fun, sometimes scary if you are caught in it, part of life here.  
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Bob on

Hi Erica
Your latest post was very well written. I imagine you have to be careful about what you share and how you present it. Stay safe and say hello to Rick - Bob

Michele on

Agree 100% with Bob... You and Rick are amazing, and you're always in our thoughts. And, thanks for the update. Michele

E.M. Dyer II on

Waaay different from Kathmandu, Nepal. Good luck finishing out Kampala.

Nomads By Nature on

Hang in there! Thanks for sharing some of the reality of your post - it's true that hardship posts are hard ship for a reason. Enjoy what you can, contribute how you can, learn and appreciate.... your time will fly by and you'll be at your next post before you know it.

Dean & Laynni on

Ah, so much of that brings a wry smile to my face, although it sounds like security has been ramped up considerably since we were there (last Oct). It didn't seem like we were subjected to as many searches or photo restrictions although it may have to do with the area you are in (more to steal/hide?) Anyway, sounds like a pretty interesting adventure so far, hope you're enjoying it. If you're feeling any nostalgia for Atitlan plan a trip out to Lake Bunyoni. Not exactly the same but a similar laid-back, enjoy-the-scenery kind of place. Looking forward to keeping tabs on your experience.

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