When it’s all over (this two-lives-for-the-price-of-one business, this travel and observing and returning home, then leaving again and looking more and writing at least some of it down), it’s the traffic that I will miss the least.
Of all the dangers and perceived dangers of the developing world that were ruminated on to the point of almost cancelation of the entire venture – it’s the one real danger that our Canadian guests of the moment have recently marvelled over more than any other.
The boda-bodas are the best examples, and I really do have to write more about these two-wheeled road machines sometime. I must have somewhere around 200 rides under my belt by now, and the above-noted guests (this is their first time in Africa) were given the honour on their first full day on the ground here in Uganda.
“It’s okay,” I said. “Even my children have gone on one of these,” and soon after we all swung a leg over and rode into the mayhem of it all.
So, it’s well past after-school pick-up time and I am here still waiting for one of my three Schnooks to return from a school trip – the other two have returned – a trip on a school bus (not the big, yellow variety), that took said Schnooks through the horrendous traffic of almost two hours from Kampala to Entebbe, home of Uganda’s international airport, a drive that, without traffic, would be more like 40 minutes.
They went in order to run in a cross-country meet on the shores of Lake Victoria which, while picturesque, is the equivalent of running an X-Game gauntlet. The winners are those who don’t bother to stop to help fellow competitors who have wiped out or passed out or just plain got lost, and the losers are those who, like the Good Samaritan, stop to help but find themselves a bit late.
Jon’s take on the bizarreness of the day? “You live. You laugh. You love. Who cares?”
But then this is a kid who, at the big race, ate ice cream from a wash tub.
Sister: “That could have come from the river! I mean, who would eat ice-cream from a tub?!”
Jon: “Uh, I would.”
Which leads to (sort of) another question. Short of getting on some airliner, I don’t know what my kids will do for their future Uganda school reunions.
As you may know, reunion or not, I have taken advantage of my own former schools where we kids, of course, very literally, fought the good fight, and where schools are (if not torn down and made into green space because the neighbours stopped pro-creating) within driving distance of our part-time Hamilton home, close enough to see if the curtains or paint have changed much over the decades.
Speaking of inter-school sports in these parts, a few days ago, on Saturday, Jon played goal in the Under-11 Football Final (think world football played with your, you know, feet). It ended in a 3-0 loss which proved that it’s always a good idea to check everyone’s ID before such games start.
There is, in fact, inter-school protocol to this effect – all players in these games involving Kampala’s international schools (there are enough of them), are supposed to provide photo ID because this, after all, is Africa, a place where dishonesty isn’t more rampant than in the rest of the world, just more brazen.
Indeed, this sort of cheating can go on anywhere.
“Babe, there is NO WAY that those boys are under 17,” I said to My Bride one day when we were young, some years ago in Sana’a, Yemen, (not a place of giants because of that nasty habit of qat chewing). Sitting in the dense traffic of that developing world city, we found ourselves behind a taxi-van with, splashed on back, a large team photo of Yemen’s’ so-called Under 17 champs.
“Come on,” I said. Cut off a leg and count the rings inside the bone and, like an oak tree, (which these guys looked like), you can see just how many years those guys have really lived.
It wasn’t much different for Saturday’s game here in Uganda. The other team had a handful of players who were not only new faces from the last time these same teams met, but who were as tall as the royal palms on our front yard.
(I mean, really, I should gone out there on the field and said I was, you know, under 11.)
Everyone – namely our team’s coach – seemed too flustered and hurried to bother checking their ID before the game started, and this was the unfortunate undoing of it all, which, equally unfortunately, was not the first time the woolies, so to speak, were pulled over our eyes.
Naturally, Jon’s Old Man later had a few questions and comments on it all to the school’s dedicated staff, something to the effect of “Fool me once, shame of you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” What, just what, are we going to do about it next time?