Welcome to Uganda!

Reposted from here.

17 flight hours, two layovers, and a 45-minute road trip with not much to see but an expanse of reddish soil, very little infrastructure, charcoal-skinned people garbed in colourful traditional clothes and accessories, we have finally entered the gates of Speke Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort – a 5-star luxury resort built in 2007 for the Heads of States and Presidents who gathered in this part of Kampala for the annual Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and our home for the next 13 days – where we will also have a 4-day convention especially designed for our African business associates, followed by a series of meetings and possibly a session on corporate plans and strategies for next year. Wow, this is odd. Me talking all business-y on my personal blog, no less.

I didn’t sleep well on our 7-hour flight to Dubai. My mind was on my luggage three quarters of the time, going over the stuff I packed, pretty damned sure I Ieft something back at home in my haste. Turns out I did, but nothing of great importance, unless you’re the type who considers sunblock and body oil a matter of life and death. Thank God, I’m not. I don’t mind getting a bit of sun on my skin. I think the whole sun goddess-y look is working well for me. Another reason why I didn’t get much sleep in the plane was this lady seated next to me who had a really bad cough I was afraid I’d catch the virus. And a debilitated immune system is not what one should have crossing the borders of Africa.

Philippine passport holders need to secure Uganda visa on arrival and we got ours at the Entebbe International Airport for US $50 for single entry. From there, we travelled by road for 45 minutes. It was an interesting ride to say the least. Though not much happening ‘round here infrastructure-wise, we saw some very catchy billboard ads (you’ll see a sample in the photo gallery) which can be quite off-putting for tourists like us.

Apparently, cross generational sex is like an epidemic here. It’s actually similar to what is known as “sugar daddy” phenomenon elsewhere. Here, middle aged men gallivanting with their teenage girl lovers is a very common sight and is now causing a wave of alarm from concerned parents. I would be concerned, too, if it were my daughter having sexual relations with a guy twice, or worse, thrice her age. And personally, I draw the line at 10 although I’ve never been with a guy more than seven years my senior.

Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort is like a slice of paradise right in the heart of Kampala. It’s a picturesque marriage between the colours green and blue – the lush green of the grass and trees set against the royal hues of Lake Victoria in the background.

The weather is lovely mix of summer heat during the day and biting wintry cold at night which makes sleeping such an enjoyable experience, especially with the diaphanous enamel-coloured mosquito net over our king-sized bed which gives the room a kind of honeymoon-ish look. Too bad it was another lady sharing the bed with me. LOL.

By the shores of Lake Victoria.

I woke up at 5:30 this morning, eager beaver to explore the resort. The sun was just peaking out of the cotton clouds when I strolled down the shores of Lake Victoria. There were crane birds everywhere! The crested crane, by the way, is the national bird of Uganda.

Some were in flight, others were just standing tall and proud by the lake. After an hour or so of ruminating by the lake, I went to have breakfast with colleagues. The buffet was scrumptious, making it even more challenging for me to stick to my coffee and breadroll diet.

There are, however, some setbacks about this place. Food is expensive. An average meal of rice and fish would cost you a minimum of US $13. Water is another luxury over here.

Ugandan women in their colorful dresses.

The locals are also in the habit of hustling tourists for money. Try asking a local for assistance and you will be met with an outstretched palm bluntly asking for payola. Even asking for directions would set you back a few thousand shillings. By the way, forex conversion here is 1,800 UGX to a dollar. I changed $50 at the airport yesterday and stepped out of the money changer 93,000 UGX richer! Frivolity ended soon after I realised the cash I have is only good for about 7 or 8 square meals. So much for imagined purchasing power! Security is another problem. Being strangers in a foreign land, we were advised against going out of the resort alone, not even if we take a taxi.

When we were in Nairobi in 2007, we had a nice time scouring the Masai Mara flea market and nearly caused the locals aneurysm with our haggling attempts – which mostly ended in futility. In Kampala, however, we barely toured the market. It was only on our last day, I think, that we were able to visit one but even then we only had about an hour or so to shop.

In Which We Partied Like Ugandans

Two nights before we left Uganda, the hotel General Manager took us out for some drinks.  Remember, this was in 2008 and I was still drinking a little bit so I thought why the heck not? We are after all flying out in two days’ time. I didn’t pack clothes for clubbing as I wasn’t expecting to go out at all on this trip, but then again, I also did not plan on dressing to the nines and invite unwanted advances from men. I put on my denim jeans and a crumpled hot pink tube top (which I didn’t bother ironing because really what’s the point?), tied my hair back in a ponytail and put on just a little makeup, mainly focusing on my eyes – to divert attention from my arms which by now are covered with rashes. Ugandan heat had triggered my skin asthma and it got worse by the day even Claritin no longer worked like it’s supposed to. Noel had an inspiration to stylise me for good measure. He said there could be hot Emirates flight attendants where we’re going and he won’t have me looking like raggedy Ann doll. Fine, I said.  Not that we were going for a wild roll in the hay, but surely, a little flirting won’t hurt, ya? (Note to boyfriend: This was in 2008 Babe, way before we would fall crazy in love. Lol! Je t’aime enormement, mon amour!) 

With Noel – my stylist, photographer, default one-man/woman cheering squad, and now a celebrity friend.

First stop, ROCK BAR in front of Sheraton Hotel. Music was so-so but there were two pool tables which totally happyfied me and Izzan. I noticed the tables and cue balls were a significantly smaller than the ones I’m used to playing. Not only that, the cue balls (apart from the standard black 8 ball) came in two colours only – red and yellow. Greg the GM told me it’s the English pool version. Interesting. I played against three Indian fellas (one after the other, of course) and won. I noticed they were quite smitten with me which explained the first win. The fella played (deliberately) bad but I was enjoying my Vodka-Red Bull so much I really couldn’t care less. Besides, I was happy I even managed to pocket a few balls. Oh but the second and third wins were well-deserved!  One African guy even complimented me on my game. But shortly after my third win, we decided to transfer to another bar because the music they were playing was so slow it was making the bunch of us very very sleepy.

That night, by the way, we were with three Persian friends-slash-colleagues.  So there was me, Venu, Greg the GM, Izzan, Gnanes and the sons of Xerxes.

Around this time, I was on my second Vodka-Red Bull and for some reason, I started remembering the Farsi cuss words Davoud and Kourosh taught me before. I was dishing out one dirty Farsi word after another the Persians were in stitches!

One Persian friend was so impressed by my extensive Farsi vocab he said I must have had a Persian boyfriend to have learned such colorful words. In fact, he said, I even have the diction/intonation so impeccable I might as well have some Persian blood in me. Hmmm, Persian ex-flame, yes, but blood? Na-uh.

The next bar we went to looked nothing like our clubs here in Manila. But we came for drinks and drinks were exactly what we had! I ordered another Vodka-Red Bull and the Persian cats were teaching me their traditional dance. There was a lot of head-bobbing and hip-thrusting involved and while I took care of the hip-thrusting very well, my head-bobbing needed a lot of work. So I made a mental note of learning (1) Farsi, and (2) Iranian dance. You’ll never know when these things may come in handy in the future.

While we were dancing, one burly African guy came over to us and started imposing himself on me and Gnanes. Greg immediately rushed to my side and told the guy off, saying I’m his wife and he should respect that. Suddenly was an English man’s wife, wow, I can totally live with that! The African guy, inebriated as he was, kept pressing on which prompted the bouncer to drag him out of the bar.

By the time we left the bar, it was nearly 6AM. We reached the hotel and decided to have coffee and watch the Ugandan sun rise. I was already feeling very sick but our Persian friends were hellbent on teaching me more Farsi so I stayed for a bit. But once I was done with my coffee I bid them adieu and walked back to the hotel room and saw Noel and Reejoie in a peaceful slumber. I only managed to brush my teeth and wash my face before I crashed out. This was to have been the very last time I would party like that because several weeks after Uganda, I would go on cold turkey.

And yes, I’m still alcohol and nicotine free today and lovin’ every second of it!


Author: mrsvickyaltaie

Mother to ZO. UltraRunner. Writer. Casual blogger. Yogi wannabe. Passionate about travel, nature, and fashion. Occasionally neurotic. Possibly, undiagnosed bipolar.

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