Uganda Day 1: Water Tank Waterfall

My first full day in Kampala is coming to a close, and what a day it's been.

Some background: I found the place I'm renting on Facebook. As I've hinted at before, for a variety of reasons I wasn't exactly expecting the arrangement to be a very formal one. I imagined paying rent month-to-month and the whole thing being quite casual. That's why I was surprised today when I found myself getting on a boda to go into the city with one of the other tenants here.

Let me back up. Yesterday when I arrived, I didn't get the key/remote for the gate, so essentially I've been stuck behind the compound wall. The plan was to meet the landlady today (who lives elsewhere), pay the rent, get the remote. This morning, when this other tenant called to introduce me to the landlady, I assumed she was here, or close. Nope! Instead, as we're walking out of the compound she tells me we're going downtown and flags down two bodas.

I've been mentally preparing myself for bodas. I really wanted to get a helmet before attempting one. This was not to be.

But first, let me paint you a picture. Driving in Kampala is essentially a free-for-all. Sometimes there are lines on the road, sometimes not, but they're virtually meaningless anyway. Roads often twist and turn and merge into each other in ways I still don't fully grasp. Traffic lights are more like guidelines, and I haven't yet come across a stop sign. There are pedestrians everywhere—walking along and beside the road (the line is blurred), and crossing through this immense traffic despite the fact that there are literally almost no gaps, ever. There are a ton of cars, and for each car there must be ten of these big van taxis—there are so many. And for every big van taxi, there must be ten boda bodas. These motorcycle taxis basically fill every nook and cranny between and beside the other vehicles on the road. There's a reason they're by far the quickest way to get around—they just dart around cars/people/obstacles/each other, passengers sitting behind the boda driver. Each one of whom, by the way, seems to be completely calm and unconcerned.

In a nutshell, the whole thing is chaos. During the limited time I've spent in cars (and now on a boda) I was sure at least a few hundred times that someone was going to get hit, whether pedestrian, boda, or vehicle.

And that is why I would very much like to buy a helmet. My boda ride today was only ten minutes, but I think I was more relieved getting off the boda than I was yesterday getting off the plane.

So we arrive downtown and meet the landlady in her office, which was at the back of a dry cleaner's she owns. We chatted briefly, at which point I found out I was expected to sign a contract and give a security deposit. News to me. Anyway, the landlady doesn't do the contract herself. Her husband is a lawyer with offices down the street a ways, so he was our next stop. Keep in mind that I walked out of my apartment expecting to meet someone very close by, so I was not exactly dressed for such a meeting, with my sweats-shorts and t-shirt.

A little while later I'm holding a draft contract. I also found out that I was expected to pay all three months' rent up front. After revising one or two of the contract terms, I signed it, paid the security deposit, and was on my way.

Mercifully, we drove back in a car.

Note that I still did not get a gate key. The landlady was supposed to stop by at 5. It's 8:16 and she's a no-show. That's a call I'll have to make tomorrow.

When I got home I had to figure out how to transfer three months' rent to a bank account in Uganda. Turns out, Scotiabank doesn't let you do that online. Cue stress. Thankfully, I received a great deal of help from mia madre and the issue was solved. (Hopefully.)

Not really being able to leave, I spent the rest of the day doing a whole lot of nothing. I did watch Game of Thrones. It ate a ton of data, but there's no avoiding that. I'm certainly not waiting until August to watch the rest of the season.

The second adventure today started around mid-afternoon, when I turned on a tap and no water came out. Eventually I found out the plumber had turned it off so that he could install a pump to get better pressure. The landlady had told me that they would be doing this. So far, so good. The water pressure in the shower was little more than a trickle before, so I was happy to get a new pump.

I should mention that, up until now, I haven't had any hot water. I also found out today that's because there's a switch I have to turn on. Having found the switch, I was looking forward to a hot shower tonight, or at least a warm one.

A few hours later, the plumber comes in to test the water. After a few tries and a few adjustments, water finally starts flowing. Pressure's great! The water was brown at first, but eventually transitioned into yellow and, blessedly, clear. Somewhat disconcerting, but a happy ending.

Except it wasn't. As we're in the bathroom running the faucet and shower to test and clear the water, the hot water tank, which is up on the wall, starts gushing water. And when I say gushing, I mean it. The tank had turned into a rather violent waterfall. Let me tell you, this is not what you want to see a few hours into your trip to the other side of the world. The waterfall lasted at least a minute before the pipe was turned off, and even after that there was still water coming out of it. Most of the bathroom got soaked. Floor, sink, toilet, cabinet, all of my stuff inside the cabinet.

The plumber and the caretaker cleaned most of it up. Apparently the newly installed pressure was too much for the tank to handle and it just gave up on life. We also realized that if you ran any faucet or tap on anything but the coldest setting, the tank would continue to leak everywhere.

So where does that leave me? Well, I've definitely got no hot water—I'll have to have another shower on the coldest setting. But to be honest, I'm just happy to have any water at all...there was a while when I thought I'd be without it entirely, at least for tonight. The plumber is coming back tomorrow morning to install a new hot water tank. Hopefully this goes slightly better. I've moved all of my bathroom stuff out of the bathroom cabinet for now—had to wash everything off anyway (on account of brown and yellow water) and I'd rather not have to do it again tomorrow. Fingers crossed it all goes well.

Sorry for the long post; but hey, you wanted to know what I'm up to! Hopefully tomorrow I'll get a new hot water tank (sans waterfall) and access to the outside world so I can actually, like, see a bit of Kampala while I'm here. Also buy myself food that's not garbage pasta. It can only go up from here! And please, don't get me wrong—I am still extremely excited to be here and can't wait until all of this is sorted out so I can really start enjoying this trip! Hopefully I'll have some good news tomorrow.