Tuesday, March 13, 2007

First Impressions of Kampala...



I knew Uganda would have a distinctive smell and it does. I had anticipated my first breath of Africa for so long, wondering what it would be like and now I know. We exited the plane late at night so there was a cool breeze to break the hot thick air. Air that smells like a mixture of wildflowers and campfires. They have so waste removal process here so all the trash is burned; something there is talk of rectifying. There are always fires burning so the odor is constant.

I have only been here for 2 ½ days so it is hard to describe all I am feeling and thinking about this fascinating place. I think Uganda has to be one of the most vivid, frenetic, colorful, fragrant (not always pleasantly so) and alive places on earth. I am taking in so many new sights; sounds and emotions that I think it will take me a few days of good sleep and processing to be able to share articulately.

I would love to share a few early impressions and observations, so here you go. My thoughts on Kampala so far…

Kampala is a flurry of activity and the traffic is insane! There is no other word for it, INSANE!! There are three traffic lights in the city and the rest of the streets are managed (and I use the term loosely) by round abouts. As in much of the developing world, the rule of the road seems to be, if there is space, move into it. The roads are full of boda bodas, which are motorcycle type things that have a cushion on the back for a passenger to ride on. They dart in and out of traffic with what can only be described as erratic and unconcerned demeanor about any vehicle (or pedestrian for that matter) in their path. I spend a lot of time in the car jumping and squealing. My husband says it is like driving with a cat in the front seat. I am terrified we are going to witness someone get killed and from what I hear it is only a matter of time.

The first morning the birds woke me. Living in Seattle you get used to traffic, sirens, boat horns and assorted other noises. I had expected it to be very quiet where we are here as it is pretty rural. I neglected to think about all the birds and insects that have something to say. It is like sleeping with one of those tropical CDs on. It is amazing how loud it is and how beautiful. Shortly after the birds woke me, I began to hear singing. It was Sunday morning and you could hear singing from the church up the road. It was so beautiful and emotional to hear all the voices in song, harmonizing with the birds. It was a nice first morning.

There is so much need here. I am so acutely aware of how blessed and pampered I am. I have spent some time the last two days at the hospital complex where my husband is based. There are people camping out all over the grounds. They are so numerous that industry has sprung up as well in the form of vendors selling snacks and the feeling is one of a little village. They come from near and far for treatment and sleep here while undergoing care. It is so humbling to see them, sleeping on dirt paths and clinic steps and know they are the lucky ones that can afford to pay for treatment. It is difficult for me to see so many people so ill. I am not accustom to it and have to learn how to handle it with grace. The sick here are much more extreme than you see at home. Often they have large growths or open wounds from lack of treatment. It is very…I am at a loss for the words.

The kids here are so darn cute!! They are so playful and scamper about all over. I am struck by how young they are when they take on responsibility here. I have seen what look like seven year olds with infants strapped to their back or slung on their hips. They walk around the crazy city streets on their own. I cannot imagine my son walking alone here and it makes me full of admiration and sadness for these kids.

Ok, that is it for now…my jetlag is catching up to me again and I am groggy. I will share more when I am better able to articulate it.

15 Comments:

Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

Oh baby it sounds so intense!

Thank you for sharing your trip with us.
I miss hearing your voice and can't wait to speak with you soon.

Be gentle with yourself. This is a lot to process sweetie.

Love you
XOXOXO

4:38 AM  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

wow leth...i don't have words either...wow, wow, wow! i just can't even imagine...

12:16 PM  
Blogger Boho Girl said...

i have happy tears in my eyes welling.

your life is so full, Letha...

this experience is wild and beautiful. i am so looking forward to living vicariously through your sharings.

we are all here for you and gathering with you in spirit.

love you.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Regina Clare Jane said...

I am visiting you from Boho Girl's blog and I just want to say what am amazing journey you are on... to have the opportunity to create such good will for people who need it so much- what an honor and a blessing.
God speed for you and your hubby...

10:44 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

i am SO proud of you, bunny. SO fricken proud. i can't wait to come visit you and see the life you create there - it's going to change so many lives, and not just your own. i love you xxoo

11:56 AM  
Blogger Schmoops said...

Hi Letha,

I am visiting you through Denise. Yours is an incredible story full of hope and inspiration. I look forward to hearing more about your experiences as you build your life, and the lives of others, in Uganda.

much love to you
xoxo

1:12 PM  
Blogger daisies said...

it is so wonderful to hear your first thoughts on Uganda, the smells and the sights ... i am overwhelmed just reading your words so i can't even imagine how you must be ...

wow.

1:20 PM  
Blogger mames said...

i just read about your journey on boho girl's blog and felt compelled to tell you i think your choice is amazing and inspiring. you have my thoughts and positive energy towards your efforts. i visited south africa years ago and felt helpless in my position as visitor, it is awesome to know others go to be agents of change. thank you for your courage, this is what shapes the future.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

found you through denise's blog!
sigh...
so glad to have found your story, adventures, and words!

sigh...

i will definately be back!

peace.

4:25 PM  
Anonymous amy said...

thank you for sharing your impressions of your new surroundings. the journey you're embarking on is inspiring and wonderful.

i was lucky enough to visit some friends in Botswana a number of years ago and have vivid memories of the beautiful, expansive skies and the smells. Africa is such an extraordinary continent. so many challenges and so much beauty and creativity (practically and artistically)

best wishes to your family on your fabulous adventure.

ad

6:51 PM  
Blogger bronxbt said...

hi there. found you like many others, thru the power of the mighty boho!

omgoodness i love your site, your journey, and to think we were neighbors in the pacific northwest!? i jes lurve that!

you're an inspiration, and i will be back. if yer ever perusing and needa smile, swing by fuzziechadsrule or one of my other 2 sites! if i can accomplish a smile from you when yer sooo far away, there's no stopping what the rest of us can do!?

eep!

best wishes, stay safe, and my gods keep up the amazing work.

Bronxbt

7:25 PM  
Blogger Mardougrrl said...

Wow...I am awed by everything that you and your family are creating. Amazing!!

Thank you for sharing all this...I feel privileged to read about your journey.

xoxo,
M

10:13 PM  
Blogger Wanda said...

I also found you through Denise. When I read your post I felt like I was walking on "holy" ground. I am so touched by what your are doing, and can't wait to hear all your stories and experiences.
God Bless!

10:22 PM  
Blogger Star said...

I'm here from Bohoville also. As soon as she mentioned your connection to Habit for Humanity, I knew I had to come visit. I'll be reading your posts with much admiration.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Lara Berch said...

Hi. My name is Lara Berch. I have just launched a new website with step by step art tutorials. I was wondering if it's possible to exchange links with you. http://www.laraberch.com
Thank you very much for your time.
Sincerely
Lara

2:30 PM  

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