Uganda Day 12: Martyrs' Day
People, there are actual pictures in this post. Only from the very end of the day, because honestly I forgot until then, but at least it's an improvement.
Today is Martyrs' Day in Uganda, which means I had the day off of work. Aliana had other plans so I was flying solo. After sleeping in longer than I probably had any right to, I did a couple of chores around the house, like boiling a pot of water to fill some empty bottles—very exciting stuff—then went to find some breakfast. Predictable as always, I found myself at La Patisserie with a "cinnamon slice" and a cappuccino. I managed to finish sorting through Europe photos while I was there! I also bought a loaf of bread as I was leaving, and stopped at the butcher next door for some salami and cheese, just to try it out. Also picked up a "roast beef" sandwich for lunch, which was probably the worst roast beef sandwich I have ever had. I thought roast beef coldcuts would at least be comparable everywhere, but I was wrong. Won't be ordering that again.
After lunch I killed a few hours at home, waiting for various devices to charge. In Canada, I charged my phone usually once a day, and only from about 40 to 80 percent. Here, I charge it all the way to 100 two or three times a day. Hot-spotting with my laptop is kryptonite for the battery.
Later in the afternoon, I set out for the second half of my solo adventure. Rather conveniently, Uber started operating in Kampala just yesterday, and they're offering 6 free rides of up to 20,000 shillings each until Sunday. This saves me from having to take a boda all weekend, not to mention the fact that it's free! So I caught an Uber back to Acacia Mall, that place we went last weekend. Behold, the first picture:
I never said it was a good picture. I had about 30 seconds to get upstairs and take it...I figured, a rubbish picture is better than no picture, at least for the present.
Anyway, I had a few things I wanted to check out here today. The first thing I did was a full circuit around the mall, which is not huge, but the last time I was here I didn't really have a chance to take it in. There's nothing too exciting, as Uganda doesn't have the chains and brand-names we're used to. The only familiar name is the KFC (you can just make out the Colonel's shoulder in the photographic masterpiece above). I did find a store with a decent selection of books, however. I haven't been reading much since I got here...I brought a half-finished book from home, but it's non-fiction, and though it's really interesting, it's not necessarily enticing in the way that fiction is. I'm steadily nearing the end of it though, so I decided to grab my next read while I was there. Before I'd left home, I had made three or four separate trips to Chapters to try and pick out a novel or two to bring, but despite many hours spent perusing each and every aisle, nothing was appealing. It was actually rather discouraging. But today, I managed to find exactly the kind of thing I'd been looking for. It's called An Officer and a Spy, by Robert Harris. I'll let you know how it is, whenever I start/finish it.
The book was the first in a series of successful purchases today. I next headed out to the parking lot, which has a whole bunch of fairly sketchy stores all around it. The intern from last summer had mentioned a place where you could get DVDs of movies and TV shows for dirt cheap. The store is called "Funz Video", which is pretty much exactly the name you'd expect a place like this to have. It was easy to find, and the recommendation was a good one. I picked up five movies for the equivalent of $4 total. This is excellent news. Because I have to pay for all of my data through my phone, Netflix or streaming (with the exception of Game of Thrones, of course) are prohibitively expensive. But now I have something to watch when I'm bored at home!
That's two successful purchases. The third was the one I was least optimistic about. We all know how absurdly difficult it's been to track down a helmet in this city. Well, a few days ago, on a Facebook group for Kampala expats, someone was leaving the city and had posted some photos of items they were selling. This included two very nice-looking helmets. Sadly I was too late to get these used ones, but I tapped into my inner Sherlock Holmes and noticed that the receipts were included in the photos. Of course, Facebook photos are ridiculously small, so I couldn't make out most of the text, but I managed to piece enough of it together to figure out the shop where they'd been purchased. Perhaps providentially, this shop was in the Acacia Mall parking lot, in the same building as Funz Video! Or at least, that's what the internet seemed to suggest. I remained skeptical.
I can hardly describe the feeling as I left Funz video, ascended the stairs, and found this store waiting at the top. I never thought I'd be so happy to see a shelf full of motorcycle helmets. In fact, helmets were the only thing for sale.. How is it possible that hours of Googling hadn't produced even the slightest whiff of this shop's existence? How? To anyone who has stumbled across this post in their own search for a helmet in Kampala: Motor City Imports, Crown Plaza, second floor, right across from Acacia Mall. This has been a public service announcement.
But I digress. Like a kid in a candy shop, I picked out the helmet I wanted, only to realize they only accept cash. Hadn't thought of that. So I had to leave the helmet, race down the street to find a Barclays ATM, and rush back before they closed for the day. And finally, at long last, I had a helmet. Not a used one, not a broken one, but a real-life brand new helmet. It was 160,000 shillings, which is about $60 Canadian. 160,000 seems like a lot, but decent helmets can be much more expensive than that, and in any event it's a fairly reasonable price to pay for protecting my head on a boda for ten weeks. I can also sell it when I'm leaving and get some back.
All in all, a hugely successful third purchase. Brace yourself for picture #2. The helmet is obnoxiously large, and I can hardly hear anything when I have it on, and I can't wear it with my glasses, but I don't even care.
Do I look ridiculous? Very much so. Am I going to have to get used to gross, matted hair every time I wear it? Yup. C'est la vie. Also, don't mind the words in front of my face or the plastic bag hanging from my chin—haven't removed the packaging yet.
The rest of my day was occupied by spending money on food and beverages. One of the places I wanted to find—also recommended by last year's intern, and also in the parking lot, supposedly—was Endiro Café. Let me tell you, unless you're looking for this café, you would never find it. There's a sign at one end of the parking lot, but the sign is almost covered by trees and bushes and stuff. A narrow stone pathway, similarly overgrown, leads into the trees from the parking lot. You can only just see the top of the building from the parking lot. Next time I'll try to remember to snap a picture of the entrance. It was like the Room of Requirement meets Narnia.
The fact that it's so well-hidden makes it quite a lovely spot. There's an outdoor patio, all surrounded by greenery. Sitting there, you wouldn't know there was a dirty parking lot and a busy mall on the other side. I only stayed long enough to get an iced coffee and do a bit of reading. It didn't occur to me until afterward that ice is generally not recommended when travelling in Uganda (or much of Africa, for that matter) on account of the tap water situation. I seem to have survived unscathed, though.
My last stop was dinner. I left Endiro and went back to the mall. It's a bit tedious going in and out of the mall, here...it's like airport security lite. Put your phone and keys in the bin, walk through the scanner, spread your arms for the wand, and open your bag so they can check inside. I've never parked underground at Acacia, but they also check each and every car that goes in—under the body and in the trunk. Oh, and did I mention the guards stationed outside holding enormous firearms? I'm pretty sure one of the guys at the Funz Video/helmet store building had some kind of shotgun. Security is intense here.
In the mall once again, I decided to treat myself and go back to that nice restaurant Aliana and I had tried last weekend, Cafesserie. Cue the third and final picture:
In my head, think of this restaurant as pricey, at least by Kampala standards. And I guess in some ways, it is, but I think that perception is based more on the fact that I haven't eaten at very many true restaurants in Kampala—just this one and the Indian one from the other night. My only other comparators are, like, the burger place we go to for lunch at work and the sandwiches at the butcher's. It's not that Cafesserie is expensive; it's just a restaurant.
And to be honest, it's actually not that expensive. I had fresh mango juice, pasta, ice cream for dessert, and a macchiato, and it all came to about $24 Canadian. Which is not bad, especially since I really didn't need the juice or the ice cream...those were just pure self-indulgence.
Anyway, it was a very nice meal. I read some more while I was there—trying to get through this book as quickly as possible now, so I can get to the new one.
When it was time to leave, I ordered my second free Uber and arrived back home, somewhat exhausted from the day, but also feeling good about all of the positive developments. Book, movies, helmet, good food, free Uber. All in all, it was a pretty good day.
And with that, I am off to bed. This was a long one, but I hope the pictures help, most notably my preposterous helmet selfie. Good night!