When I first arrived in Kampala I was enamored with Africa. Maybe it was because I was still loopy from all the benadryl that I had to take on the KLM flight that insisted on serving almonds (I am allergic), maybe it was because I was glad to step on any ground after 27 hours of flying or maybe it was because I just liked how warm it was here. But more than anything I think it was the smell of Uganda. Chase told me that it was going to smell different here. When I asked him what it would smell like he said “sweat,” which certainly isn’t far off. Uganda smell like a mix of campfire smoke, roasting meat and sweet sweat that hangs in the humidity. I love it.
After my initial fascination wore off I began to realize that I was seeing the same scene over and over. The same child standing alone by a dumpster or playing with a waterbottle. The same mother selling clothes or washing clothes of hanging clothes out to dry. The same man pushing a bundle of sticks or wood or a bag of sand on the seat of his bike. The same small house with a metal roof. The same red dirt and green palm tree. Everywhere. Uganda, despite an undeniable life, does not change.
After I caught on to this congruency I noticed a sign. It was in downtown Kampala somewhat near the Simba Casino. It said “Kingdom Kampala: a work in Progress.” I wish that I would have gotten a picture of the sign, but I didn’t have my camera out and we were in the bus. It was painted on a green sheet metal wall in large letters. To me, progress implies change, movement forward and steps in a new direction. But more than anything, progress implies that the new habits, outweigh the old. But, Uganda is both being built and falling apart. There are buildings that are under construction that eerily (as Patrick pointed out) might never be finished. (Yesterday I saw a crane with weeds growing on it). And there are buildings falling apart that eerily, might never be saved. I guess the question for Kampala is: does the construction and growth outweigh the number of things that fall apart? Does the new outweigh the old?