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Life in Uganda

UGANDA MARTYRS UNIVERSITY

Moving to Kampala, August 2006

So our time in Nkozi was over and we had to decide what next! In the meantime we had tied our lives together for better and for worse. The most reasonable solution was to find a place in Kampala and move ourselves and the canines to the capital. We went house hunting and quickly found a place which we could rent in the periphery of Kampala, the suburb of Bugolobi. If you look on a map of Kampala, you will find that Bugolobi is situated on the outskirts of Kampala and giving you access to the road to Jinja in the East of the country. It also gave easy access to the centre of town. Its greatest asset was a nearby Shell petrol station which had next to it an exquisite Pizza place and they delivered home! Very often when giving directions we would tell people to “go to Bugolobi Shell Petrol station” and take it from there. We had no idea for how long this house would be our abode, but it suited us for the time being. A strange building it was, with different levels in the house, clearly showing all kinds of additions. One had to be very careful in the kitchen not to walk too fast as you would end up tumbling down an uneven step or hit your head on a low ceiling which was cutting the kitchen into two. We learned very quickly how to manoeuvre in this environment. The garage was the strangest of places. You could enter via the kitchen but to get out you had to take a big step up and then down. Now how you get a car in there remains a mystery to me! In any case we needed space to put our many things and the garage turned out to be a very good storage place. Within this garage there was the strangest little room with shower. It had a small window to the outside and would have to do as a study for the time being. The defunct shower room then became storage for our boxes of books!

When we got there with two lorries of goods, having travelled all the way from Nkozi, offloading went smoothly, even if goods had moved throughout the trip. Not too much damage (our guys at Nkozi were far from being professional movers!) But the goods got to Kampala and this was the main thing. I had followed with the dogs, which was another story! I must say they were not always happy in the back of the car, but they too got safely to Bugolobi. And so we were there for our first evening; there was not much as a welcome meal but at least we could have a small drink! Do not talk about the first night’s ‘sleep’ in Kampala. I have never been mosquito infested like this. I think we spent most of the time hitting and flapping our arms to chase those little pests! Also do not ask me how we felt when the morning light came up! Relief, but at the same time with faces, scalp, arms and legs pocked with mosquito bites. Luckily it seems Kampala mosquitoes do not carry malaria and we did not have any after effects of these little invaders presence and attacks. Quickly we found out that where we were located we were at a stone’s throw of the nearby swamp, so this certainly explains the many mosquitoes. For those living nearer to the swamp (and it was supposed to be a residential area) life must have been a continuous war zone.

Quickly we settled down into our new place and arranged things in such a way that the house would be comfortable and welcoming. And so it was! We would be able to invite some friends for a house warming party. It also turned out that one of our neighbours was the Belgian Ambassador and quickly we became friends. Our housekeeper from Nkozi followed us as well as one gardener. So there we were, a small new community in the capital of the land! The gardener quickly found ways and means to plant vegetables and after a few weeks we had some fresh produce at our disposal. Not bad for a start in the big city! Our housekeeper had a place behind the house where she set up quarters, rather comfortably. Behind that, another place was arranged for our gardener and he too was a happy punter in his new abode! At the end of this place there was a small open room in which we installed a generator as Kampala was prone to power cuts at unannounced times and for unspecified periods of time.
I have never understood people who build houses in Uganda. Next to the master bedroom was an enormous bathroom, almost the size of the bedroom. In it there was a jacuzzi which did not work and a slippery floor where your life was in constant danger! You learn very quickly where to put your wet feet! Next to the master bedroom there were two bedrooms and one bathroom. A living room and a dining room next to the kitchen completed the place. All in all not too big but certainly sufficient to put all our belongings. So the garage and other rooms were fully used as storage spaces.

So time had come for us to start a new life. My “Irish colleague”, Dee, was to take some months off after the 13 years at Nkozi, and I would take on a new job at the National Council for Higher Education as Deputy Executive Director in charge of Quality Assurance. And so on the first day of September I set off to my new work place and was looking forward to meet my new colleagues. I was welcomed, sure, by those present, but the Executive Director was absent and there was no office space foreseen for me. So my first day was rather brief with a look around the place, meet a few colleagues, read a few papers and back home in the early afternoon. There would definitely be work to be done in the months and years to come! After two weeks I came back home and my better half told me she had received a phone call from a businessman in town, asking her to set up a university for him. Consideration would be given to this project, and the few months rest saw their way out the window!

Our stay in Bugolobi did not last very long as one day a pleasant young couple turned up and informed us they had bought the house! When are you moving out? No, not again just after having moved in. So house hunting started again and this time we decided that if we could find a place we could purchase we would do it. Given the job I had it should be near enough to reasonable access roads to my place of work. After serious consideration, Dee accepted the challenge to set up a new university. So our place should not be too far from where she would work. One afternoon she phoned me at the office. “Please come over immediately, I think I have found the ideal place!” So there we were at a beautiful residence, up for sale, with all the amenities you could dream of. A bit big with four bedrooms and bathrooms, a kitchen through which a lorry could be driven, a massive sitting room and dining room and each bedroom with its own bathroom and direct access to a private terrace. Not bad at all. We fell in love with it and rather quickly the needful steps for the purchase were completed. We had no money, but then a solution is always to be found and we found it. So in March 2007 we moved again to a place called Bunga at the other end of town and near Lake Victoria. It was a stone’s throw away from the place I had worked years earlier, Ggaba National Seminary. Life’s twists and turns can be strange. One feature of the house which really enthused us were the wooden floors: thick mahogany parquet floors and a massive wooden staircase to the top floor. What a mansion! It was rather a big difference with what we had before but then why not! At least, for the first years, our families would be able to visit us and have some space to breathe while with us, and so they did – many times!

Really for both of us a new life was starting, and over the years we would try our best to contribute in a positive way to higher education in Uganda. All this for other blogs! Just relax for now and wait for new stories later.

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