Aboard the bus
If our group was exploring Uganda the African way, we would be traveling around the country in a fleet of rusty, old bicycles. Instead, our primary method of transportation is a tour bus, complete with No Smoking signs written in Chinese and a small chandelier hanging from the ceiling, who’s purpose and origin remain unknown.
As we drive through the country side, I am continually struck by how stereotypically ‘African’ everything looks. When someone thinks of Africa, they often picture small, shirtless children with bloated stomaches, women carrying items on their heads, and animals roaming free. However, each of these African stereotypes is very much based in truth. All of these scenes, plus so many more, are constantly occurring along the side of the road. However, when I am able to see things for myself, they transform from images I’ve seen on the pages of National Geographic to reality that is occurring before my eyes.. When I look out the window and see a woman with a baby strapped to her back, a bushel of firewood on her head, and two jugs of water in her hands, her struggles become real to me. When I see I group of children playing in a pile of trash, I feel connected to them and the risks to their health. It is hard to think that while we quickly drive by, these people remain behind.
Being aboard a large bus full of muzungus (white people), driving through the African countryside is comparable to being aboard a limousine driving through a small town in rural Nebraska: everyone stops what they are doing and stares at you. The children run up to the side of the road and wave, laugh, and point. The woman look up from their work to take in the scene, usually with strong and stoic faces. The men, who are often just sitting around in groups, watch us as we drive by, sometimes cracking a smile or nudging their neighbor.
In order to get to the locations that we are visiting and filming, we have to spend hours on the bus. One way that we have found to pass the time is making friendship bracelets. Bridget was wonderful enough to bring two large packs of thread, and since she first showed it to us yesterday, we have become bracelet-making machines. I alone have made seven: two on my left wrist, three on my right wrist, one on my ankle, and one that I gave away to a boy named Denis who was a student at the school we visited today. Bracelet making has been a really fun way for our group to bond as we have shared methods and techniques with one another. We even made bracelets in the colors of the Ugandan flag- black, red, and yellow- for Herbert, our guide, and Frank, our fearless bus driver.
It is impossible to talk about life on the bus in Africa without mentioning the roads. All the roads here are made of red dirt and are covered in bumps, rivets, holes, and ditches. Even with the very impressive, skillful driving of Fred, the drive to our destinations is almost always incredibly bumpy. It is not uncommon for the bus to be driving along at a 30 degree angle or make a quick and sudden swerve to simultaneously avoid an unseen hole and an oncoming bike. We take turns sitting toward the back of the bus, where every jostle of the bus is exaggerated and you occasionally find yourself airborne. However, every ride is an adventure which keeps the trip fun and interesting.