‘Jambo’, which means ‘hello’, is a Swahili word which I’d learnt from my father, who was born in Uganda. He used to speak about Uganda as if it were a mystical place which mother nature had bestowed with bountiful gifts; a place which was lush and green, where anything could grow.
As I said a tearful goodbye to loved ones and boarded my plane from Amsterdam, I realised that I was feeling a plethora of emotions. On the one hand I was sad to be leaving, and yet excited and nervous about my adventure all at the same time.
The main purpose of my visit was to see my little sister, Farah (which means ‘joyful one’), or Faloooo as we like to call her endearingly, as we hadn’t seen each other in a few years. At the back of my mind, I was also aware that through this visit I wanted to learn more about my absent father and his origins, in the hope that this would help me to understand him a little better.
After finally landing, we drove from Entebbe on the banks of lake Victoria into Kampala while a brilliant lightning storm lit up the dark night sky. It was great to catchup with Farah, as we hadn’t met up in a few years. We realised that this was probably only the 5th time we had spent time together in the same place, as Farah grew up in Uganda whereas I’d grown up in India and then moved to England after my father left and re-married. When Farah was a child we used to write letters to each other by air-mail, but then we lost touch for a while. After my father died in 1995 and we got older, things changed, and I feel that we’re closer now than ever before.
Kampala also appeared to have changed since my last visit. The city of over 1.6 million people, originally built on seven hills, seems to have grown significantly into a vibrant metropolis full of contrasts, with sections of extreme poverty and deprivation, and other areas which resemble modern European culture, with loads of trendy shops and bars and a vast array of funky new restaurants to choose from. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any evidence of any Tango classes in Kampala, yet, but watch this space 😉 !
In contrast to my previous visits, I noticed that the customers in this new Kampala are on the whole of African origin, rather than the ‘muzungos’ (foreigners), which was previously the norm. I sense that racial tensions continue to exist, and there is still a stark contrast between the rich & poor. I also noticed more women appear to be working in professions which were traditionally male dominated, such as in building & construction for example. As we lunch with Farah’s friends, a bunch of highly educated 2nd & 3rd generation Ugandan women, who are well travelled young professionals and entrepreneurs, I hear about some of the sexist attitudes women continue to face in Uganda despite the fact that they’ve made their way to to the top of their fields and that 33% of businesses in Uganda are now owned by women.
I’m equally impressed by my #AirBnB host, Esther (pictured above), a single mother with very little formal education , who manages to support her children through school by managing a number of properties, such as ‘Clara’s Place’ where I’m currently staying, as well as by growing sugar cane on a piece of land she owns in her little village.
After the hustle and bustle of busy city life, Farah and I decide to go on a road trip up north with a friend, to spend some time in nature and check out some Ugandan wild life around Murchison Falls.