Greetings from sunny and green Kampala! I’m currently sitting on the patio of a Dutch owned café called Brood (which means bread in Dutch). I can never get enough of the Netherlands no matter where I go apparently. After a very hectic past few months of stress and preparation when it was finally time to leave I suddenly found myself sad to leave the tiny country I now call home. But now that I’m back in crowded, lively, sunny, and friendly Kampala, it all feels right. Although I’ve already noticed some changes (cleaner streets, a few additional traffic lights that no one knows how to use, and some sparkling new malls) in this bustling city, in many ways it feels like I never left. I visited my old office on Friday and yesterday went to my favorite café/art gallery/restaurant to enjoy the peace of their garden seating area. My Ugandan accent (those of you who have heard it know what I mean) and my hard bargaining skills seemed to instantaneously return as soon as I set foot in this country. It feels perfectly natural to engage in friendly banter with the boda (motorbike taxi) drivers to convince them to lower their price. The process is not even about money, it’s simply the fun of bargaining and engaging in friendly conversation. And since these rides are often harrowing and potentially life threatening because they involve weaving in and out of the endless lines of Kampala traffic perched atop a motorbike without a helmet, I suppose I shouldn’t be willing to pay a high price anyway.
For those of you who are a bit unaware of my coming and goings over the past few months (understandable since I’ve been doing a lot of plane hopping recently) I am in Uganda for the next 5ish weeks to survey small enterprises that have purchased solar home systems from the NGO that I am working with for my thesis. I am going to attempt to draw out the causal link between electricity access and business economic performance. In between sleeping at a lot of different very hospitable friends and doing research, I also had a job interview for a research position at an energy research center in northern California (Arcata to be more specific—more well known as the pot capital of America) working on off grid lighting. As far as I can tell the job is about as perfect as could be, but now that the possibility to leave my life in the Netherlands (particularly) since I’m moving to Amsterdam when I get back gives me a horrible feeling in my stomach every time I think about it. So for now, I’m not thinking about it and just waiting to see what happens. But this job means that after four years of globetrotting I might be (temporarily) back in the US.
Presently, I am going to make the best of my time in the Pearl of Africa. It seems I always choose to come to this country when it is making world headlines. As I hope you are all aware, Uganda recently passed a very upsetting anti-gay bill (not to mention an anti-pornography bill that also includes women wearing skirts above the knee). Already on my taxi ride from the airport and strategically asked questions to my taxi driver about the bill, trying to draw out more information as to what the actual support for the bill is in Uganda (so far it seems overwhelming) and figure out why these attitudes exist in such strength on this continent.
Perhaps being a very frequent flyer is beginning to pay off because all of my recent flights (at not extra cost) I have managed to sit in economy comfort with lots of leg room. This upgrade proved very fruitful this time around because I sat next to a man who was a prosecutor during the Rwandan genocide trials and who was traveling back to the country to speak during the 20th anniversary of the genocide. He was extremely well traveled and knowledgeable and ironically will also be in den Haag end of next month!
Tomorrow I’m off to Mbarara in the west via the Ugandan post bus! It’s nice to be back in a more independent setting and be free to go, meet, and do what I want!