Boda-Boda

It’s day two spent fully in Uganda, and I cannot be more content with where I am and the time for me to be here.

Today in Uganda there is a big football match (go Cranes!) against Guinea (I think). As I am no stranger to pan-African passion for this sport having been in Ghana during the world cup when the Black Stars beat the US (thankyouverymuch) I find the total-psyched up persona embodied in everyone today exhilarating.

For those of you unfamiliar:

Football (a.k.a. American Soccer) is THE sport everywhere I have been in Africa. You think the Steelers have some nutty fans? Try again. Everyone in Ghana during the world cup was nearly always sporting the colors or black stars, if they weren’t completely decked out for the match day. Cars were painted or covered in flags, and the [NAME] horns that make such a droning sound were abundant. Everyone- I mean everyone- watches or listens to the matches on televisions or radios. In our small motel in Ghana the lobby, built for at max twenty people, was more often than not crammed with forty people. Guards with guns, the hairbraider from across the road, the hotel staff, our Habitat for Humanity cooks and guides and friends, as well as we sixteen mzungus.*

Now, today is not nearly as unbelievable as Ghana, mostly due to the fact that it is not the World Cup. But the sentiment remains the same; all of town now is tuned in and glued to their screens and dials. Normally across the street from the flat of our friends in Kampala there is blaring music from the video store. That lasts until three (ish) in the morning. And while the music is still jamming away, the volume is noticeably lower so the match can be heard. Moments ago there was an enormous roar; Thera and I inferred (correctly, we think) a goal had been scored.

Earlier today, however, we decided it was high time for us to get out of the flat and into downtown Kampala. So, dressed in my traveller’s blouse, skirt, and wide-brimmed Van Gogh inspired straw hat, we headed from Bbunga (the suburb we’re in) to Garden City, the mall. But Bbunga, much like Brooklyn to NYC, is not a mere walking distance. And unlike the Big Apple, Kampala has no metro system.

So in true UG fashion, Thera and I embarked on something that has been on my bucket list for some time: we took othing other than boda bodas.

Boda boda, which sounds like a vraiment Lugandan word, in fact is a shortened and Ugandan-a-fied slang for “border-border.” When the border between Kenya and Uganda was closed boda-bodas would voyage- quickly and unsees (mostly)- between the nations. Hence the name.

And by now, if you are not versed in the slang of East Africa, you’re probably wondering what the hell I’m referring to. Boda-bodas are (sorry Mom) motorcycles captained by Ugandans.

They function much like a taxi- a pretty unsafe, far more spine-tingling taxi, but a vehicle of transport nonetheless. I’ve always wanted to ride on one since first landing in Entebbe, but being in bigger groups with rented buses there was never a need. And you know, you’ve got to be kind of gutsy to clamber on the back of a Bike with a stranger in Ugandan city traffic.

But I’m here in the spirit of adventure and self-discovery, right?!

And I have to say, riding on a boda-boda is honestly one of the coolest and most incredibly fun things I have ever done! The breeze feels absolutely marvelous and there’s really no better way to see Kampala than darting in and out of cars past shops and stalls and buildings. There is something so alluring in the thrill of such a truly Kampalan action to pursue! Besides, a boda-boda on match day was far faster than the jammed-up taxis trying to get to the stadium.

And no worries dear readers (*ahem*parents*ahem*) I am alive and well and certainly still stand by my position, Tom, that you cannot buy a motorcycle.

But back to Kampala. Should one ever need to disprove the National Geographic mythical Africa where all babies are pot-bellied and all people backwards, look no further than Kampala, the burgeoning and noisy and rebellious and wonderful capital of Uganda. There are malls (yes, in the plural), plenty of cuisine options other than Ugandan, businesses, tourists, locals, and everything a big city has in the states. Sure, there’s no Empire State building, but that’s kind of why I love it. The streets are crammed with boda-bodas and taxis and people of all nationalities and purposes. While we mzungu do stand out, I find that absolutely not to the detriment or discredit of this city. And, at Thera’s urging and my own observations, I am drinking in the accessibility in Kampala because once we head north to Kotido that influx of Chinese and American and European goods is going to drastically decrease.

Which is why we hit up the mall. I wanted to go to a bookstore merely to poke around (and to procure more easy read fiction, as I finished the Dessen novel). Upon first entering the establishment (that is, I might add, as nice as any given Barnes & Noble) What book should be the first I see other than this: the most recent publication by none other than Professor Ellis, of Mount Holyoke College’s history department. Irony? Yes. Divine sign that Community transcends? Perhaps. Proof that when they say they’re world-reknown they mean it? Okay, fine, yes. Needless to say I was floored and laughing my butt off and mostly really impressed. Good job, MoHo.

While I did not procure a copy I did pick up a paperback of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Yeah, it’s my fourth. But I didn’t bring any of the HP books with me and it was super cheap and it is my favorite and really I just wanted it with me for a comfort blanket of goodly British humor and affirmation of the Revolution. So go ahead and snort and judge and laugh. I know you are.

Additionally at the craft market where we journeyed to after a delicious lunch of pizza and sushi, I procured this beautiful painting and while I know it’s far too soon in my trip to be buying so much and truly I only meant to peruse but…it was yellow and blue and of baobab trees. Too many things I loved to pass up such an opportunity. And I swore no more silly gift things until the end of the trip. But today I caved, if only a little. After said purchase we were rather tired and decided it was time to boda-boda back to Bbunga, where I now sit tapping away, listening to the reaction of the crowd gathered round for the match.

*mzungu = foreigner/white person in karamjong, lugandan, and twi

current jam: something ugandan on the radio

best thing in my life right now: internet in uganda!

my dad suggested counting down to my birthday…still thinking on it 🙂 any further count-ups or downs suggestions?

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6 thoughts on “Boda-Boda

  1. hetalikunal says:

    1. I have just spent an inordinate amount of time watching youtube videos of Pride and Prejudice. this I know you will appreciate.

    2. I think you might really enjoy The Grace of Silence, by Michele Norris. if you’re still looking for things to read.

    3. turn on your RSS feed, woman! it will help me remember to return to this lovely yellow page every time you write. it’s under appearance>widgets>RSS links.

    4. I am so glad you are doing well. can’t wait to hear more! much love. 🙂

  2. yasmina says:

    ” Should one ever need to disprove the National Geographic mythical Africa where all babies are pot-bellied and all people backwards, look no further than Kampala, the burgeoning and noisy and rebellious and wonderful capital of Uganda.”
    Thank you for this sentence. It surprises me that so many people buy into that mythical Africa in this day and age
    Also, my mom and brother are in Kenya now, so overall i’m very jealous and i want to be in east africa too! looks like you’re having a blast.

    • Lizzie McMizzie says:

      Thank you for appreciating it! I am so jealous of your mom and brother! Kenya is a marvelous, marvelous place- I’ve never been outside of Nairobi but I know many a kind and lovely Kenyan! East Africa is awesome! Join us sometime! 😀

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