Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Slow news day today

Okay, so just last week, I say i'm going to start posting at least every monday... And then I go and miss my first self imposed deadline... I'm in africa, ok? I'm working on 'Africa Time'! (ie. what's the difference between monday and tuesday? Or even between monday and three mondays from now?)

This past weekend was a bit less exciting-africa-action-packed than my previous posts. The Rwandan volcano-hike episode resulted in a sprained ankle that is somewhat limiting my ability to do super-fun-to-read-about stuff. Hey, i hobbled somewhere! And then I hobbled a bit more! Cool, huh?

In an effort to stay off of my foot though, I've been taking boda-bodas a lot more, as an alternative to walking. As mentioned in my rwanda post, boda-boda's are motorcycle/scooter taxis. They're quick and convenient (since they can zoom in and out of traffic jams) and they're really cheap; and you've got, like, a 80% chance of not getting in an accident, at least. (Ha, ha, just kidding mom and dad... its an 85% chance for sure.) Oh, and why are they called boda-boda's you ask? Because they were originally used to transport people from the border of, say, uganda, to the border of, say kenya, which are placed, conveniently, about 1/2 a mile apart, and which, for some reason, you can't sit on your bus to go through. So, border-border transit! Transportation in general is kind of an interesting subject here, in that the main forms of public transit are the boda-boda's and matatus (which are according to my Lonely Planet guidebook are unique to East Africa.) I'm assuming that uniqueness=interesting, since as I said above, its a slow news day. Matatus are basically Toyota HiAce vans that go along mostly set routes, and have mostly set prices, and hold about 14 people. You stand at the side of the road and flag one down. The 'conductor' (usually some bad-attitude young guy who thinks that my white skin renders me too stupid to understand how to calculate change) sits in that back section of the van and slides the door open. You clamber in, sitting either on a bench seat or on one of the flip-down seats that fills the aisle at the side of the van. Getting stuck with a flip-down seat means that any time someone needs to get out, you also need to get out, and then get back in. People are super-lazy about their departure stops too (god forbid they should walk ten feet) - so sometimes you end up getting in-and-out of your seat three times in a 40-meter stretch. Anyways, when you finally arrive in the centre of town (where all matatus end; you can't go from one part of town to the other without going downtown first) you disembark in the Old Taxi Park, which is one of the most chaotic & overwhelming sites you'll ever see. The Taxi Park is sort of in a valley, so when you first see it from above, you get a true idea of how nuts it is - there's hundreds and hundreds of identical matatus, with no apparent rhyme or reason to their organisation - no rows, no right angles, no signage. Just a whole load o' vans jammed in and every angle, their honking competing with the conductors who just stand there and yell out the destination over and over again, the drivers making no effort to avoid knocking over the women selling bananas from baskets on their heads, or the guys selling chewing gum and hair barrettes through the van windows, or the booths selling pop, phone cards, fruit, or sunglasses around the edges of the park. Somehow though, it all works, and i've never actually seen anyone get knocked over, and my matatu is always in the same spot - just up from the billboard encouraging family planning, to the left of the Pepsi/mango booth.

Oh, yeah and what have I actually done this week: On friday night, I went out for dinner with a bunch of friends to the Blue Mango, a funky restaurant where you pile a load of meat, veggies and sauce onto a plate and then they 'stir-fry' it for you - its delicious and a very welcome change from the home-cooked goat-and-no-veg meals i get at home. Afterwards, my friend Sara and I went to a bar called 'Just Kicking' in the Kisementi district (where a lot of the popular bars & restaurants are) where we had a few drinks and met up with a friend of hers who plays for the Uganda's soccer team. Saturday afternoon was a pool party at a friend's house, and Saturday night was big dinner at Sara's house - she actually made perogies from scratch - I'd always thought they only existed in a bagged-and-frozen state. Sunday I went with Maria, another canadian, to 'Chimp Island' (actually called the 'something something Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary') which was a bit of a dissapointment (we thought we were going to get to walk around the island and see the chimps in their natural habitat; actually we were basically penned in away from the chimps and just saw them at feeding time) but was still an interesting day (it's not ike seeing chimps up close is exactly an everyday experience for me) and another opportunity to get out of the city. Sunday evening, Maria and I raced from the chimp-island-boat to a see a performance of a traditional drum/dance band, and then went out for drinks with some friends. So, i guess I did stuff, but who wants to hear about a pool party?

Oh, and did you notice? I've added a the ability for readers to put in their own Comments to my posts! So comment away!


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