Here are some sketches that detail the contradictions, complexities and beauty of daily life in Uganda.
Thus it began: the most epic search for food I have ever experienced. We didn’t ask for much: beans, rice, maybe chapatti — something simple and easy, common Ugandan staple food. Our quest took us all over town, onto two bicycles and to six different restaurants, all of which were staffed by women who told us the exact same thing:
Smoked meat. Fresh meat. No beans. No rice. No chapatti.”
It was an anti-vegetarian conspiracy, developed and manned by a gang of sisters who ran Apac’s food distribution behind the backs of the LC5. An entire city — a district seat, no less — and no beans to be found. Rebecca and I sat in our hotel room for a minute, wondering what we would do.
I sat with Ali, a stranger to me, at our dirty Café Pap table because it had the only open spot at a smoking table at the crowded cafe. Pap, which sits just below Kampala's Parliament and just above the main thoroughfare, is Uganda's version of Starbucks, only with even more mediocre food and an even more stratified social milieu. Mbu, this is Uganda, where the average family lives on less than a dollar a day, and a cappuccino at Café Pap costs two days’ income. There are 28 million people in Uganda, 1.2 million in Kampala, and about 20 people at Café Pap at any given lunch hour.
I met little Lwize Paalwa three years ago in the dilapidated hospital of the Ugandan Army's 4th Division in Gulu, northern Uganda. The seven year old had the monumental task of taking care of her HIV-positive mother, Mamisha, who was near death. “Mummy wants to eat eggs, but there are no eggs. Mummy wants to eat meat, but there is no meat. All we have is beans and posho (ed. corn meal),” she told me.
Nsazi Island and many other islands on the Lake, are magnets for Uganda's unemployed. Nsazi village is a very good reflection of what the Lake's islands have become. ‘The village is a collection of mud and woven-branch huts separated by muddy lanes, with a few houses built of wooden plank and even fewer sitting on concrete foundations.’ The Lake's water is used for drinking and cleaning, without sanitation. There are now about 2,000 people on Nsazi; as recently as 1998, there were only about 600 people there. Many, think of islands on Lake Victoria as a tourist paradise, some are. But islands, like Nsazi are now over crowded, very poorly served with social and physical infrastructures and are only contributing more to the rapid destruction of Lake Victoria and its resources. The Nile Perch has devoured hundreds of native fish species in the Lake. But it's humans, now, who are rapidly destroying Lake Victoria.