Bargains at the Equator

Caitie Goddard in Uganda:

Bargains at the Equator

Amazing weekend! On Saturday morning, Brooke, Chris and I met up with Rachel and took a matata (van taxi) into Kampala. There we were meeting Greg and Todd, 2 other volunteers from California who work in another area of Uganda. Morgan, (also from Cali) was also coming but a bit later. I met Morgan, Greg and Todd through The Real Uganda when we all stayed for a night at the volunteer house in Mukono. We had decided to meet in Kampala since it was a convenient middle point for all of us. Not to mention it would be nice to get a little bit of city life, functioning internet, food, and a night out!

We booked a night at a hostal called Red Chili which is in every guidebook and known by any mzungu remotely near Kampala. It’s pretty incredible when you are living with few luxuries; a shower, a flushable toilet that you can sit on, DSTV, cold drinks, western foods and internet! We all stayed in the mixed dorms-the cheapest option and therefore the total price was a whopping 12,000 USH, roughly $6.00. It was great to have a little time to unwind and actually feel like the dirt was coming off my body instead of feeling like I am just redispersing it.

We stayed there for awhile before heading out for the night and were shown a place for dinner (by our lovely tour guide Chris who navigated the streets of Kampala like he had lived there for 20 years) not yet in the Bradt Travel Guide which I guarantee will/should be in any future books! Tuhende Safari Lodge, run by a native Ugandan who spent 35 years living in California is the owner. For 13,900 USH, you get an appetizer that appeared to be something like pita filled with different vegetables and served with a chili salsa. Following 3 plates of that for 8 people, we each got a bowl of onion and crouton soup. As a main course, you have a choice of several options including steak, several chicken or fish dishes and 2 vegetarian options. I choice one of the vegetable dishes and it was absolutely amazing. Since vegetable are considered a poor man’s choice or an afterthought here, (besides potatos, beans, and cassava, a root vegetable) finding anything more than a miniscule piece of tomato in your pasta or rice is a miracle. I was in heaven. Collectively we probably said “this is sooo good” or in my case, “this is unreal” about 50 times.

Later on we went to a bar called Parkside Inn where I got killed in the Ugandan pool game. Here I got to try my first baggie of alcohol. Since I am not a beer drinker and everything else gets a little more pricey, I was eyeing the sodas when I noticed on the chalkboard it said “Beckham, 700USH. I decided I had to try it and ordered one with a Krest Bitter Lemon soda. For those fortunate enough to have missed out on this opportunity in life, Beckham is gin in a baggie which I now realize I have seen many people sipping OUT OF A STRAW on the street. Due to the poor balancing skills of a plastic bag on a table, the half I managed to have before spilling the rest left me pretty sure I wouldn’t order it again. We left to go to Effendy, a bar/club likelier to be found somewhere in the U.S rather than anywhere else in Uganda The music was loud and the drinks overpriced but it had an outdoor area in the back and it was nice to have fun!

Sunday Brooke, Greg, Todd, Morgan, Rachel and I headed to the area in Uganda directly on the line of the equator. We were warned it was two ugly circles where a bunch of mzungus go to take cheesy photos. If you know me, you realize hearing that, I was DEFINITELY going! I love the cheesy tourist spots just as much as I love the off the beaten track locations. We really got lucky with our timing. It poured almost the entire 1 ½ hour drive and just before we arrived, the rain stopped! We got out to a clear sky and the picturesque view of two, clearly out of place circles that you could step in and shamelessy take numerous photos of yourself. Of course I did just that and loved every second.

Since it’s clear this is a tourist hotspot, there are also several stores that sell everything from postcards and miniature animals to incredible artwork and handmade instruments. I had mistakenly put several 1000USH in my wallet for the weekend believing them to be 10,000 bills so I had NO money to be spending so I took on the roll of “admirer.” I still loved looking at all the incredible crafts made by hand and got some good ideas for a few souvenirs for my family!

While my adventure up to that point had been frugal, I assumed lunch would be where I would spend the last of my money. In fact, I ended up spending less that $1.00 on a great lunch! We decided to skip the café near the shops where everybody else went and walked about 20 minutes down the road to get some local food. Of course everyone stared and we had kids come up and watch us buy some food at one of the stores.

Here is what we came out with for about 2500 USH for 6 people; 2 avocados, chipatti, “pancakes,” (which I can best describe as fried unrisen banana bread that’s about the size of the “O” your hand makes when you give the “ok” signal) sambosas (trianble shaped bread filled with rice, chickpeas or meat,) and mini bananas. I also got a the delicious Krest Bitter Lemon soda which cost me more than my meal at a whopping 1000USH (50 cents!)

This post will end like it started; amazing weekend!