Kamapala: A Child in the Pearl of Africa

October 8, 2012
Custom User Avatar
More by this author
A Child in the Pearl of Africa

You might think Africa is a wild place, filled with forests and blood-thirsty lions roaming around every corner. That there are spear men waiting in the trees to capture you and take you into the forests for man eating gorillas to feast on. Or that your house would be in the plains of the African savanna with zebras living in your back yard alongside giraffes and elephants. At least that’s what I imagined it would be like as a young boy growing up in South America; that is, before I was taken into the depths of what they call—The Pearl of Africa.
Stepping into an unknown world, I didn't know what to expect. As I climbed into the car at Entebbe Airport and began the hour long journey to the capital, I began to point out anything outside the car window until I grew tired of it. It was once the sun had set and the sky turned a light orange and purplish red that I began to doze off. I was just about to close my eyes; when something caught my eye. I looked around to see if anybody else was seeing what I had. Everybody else seemed to be in their own world so I turned back and saw it again. Its wings beating gracefully through the air, its long neck curved and balanced, its long legs stretched back along its long tail, and finally its shining crane from which the bird got its name. For a Ugandan it would be the Crested Crane; the national bird of Uganda. But for me, it was the beginning of what I knew would be my journey in Africa.
Kampala for me was the most amazing and mixed city in the world. A place standing in the borderline between a city and natural metropolis. The city is built into the hills, which make an astonishing view of the scattered Mabati roof huts and crop plantations, the greenery of the trees and grass lands, and in the mist—the silver Lake Victoria—which allows the city to survive. It is once you climb down from the forested hills that you experience the natural beauty in Kampala. You smell the red dust brought up from the long horned cows walking across the streets of the city. The Vervet monkeys swinging from branch to branch looking for an unwary fruit seller to take his eyes off his mangoes for an instant; while the huge Marabou Storks rule the skyline.
The city itself was an amazing oasis for me as a child. Crowds of people walking on the few sidewalks there are in the city, as well as the traffic mounting up around Clock Tower with hundreds of Matatus and Boda-Bodas which make up the public transport all around the city. Alongside the busy roads lay huge markets in every neighborhood. Nakasero Market is constantly filled with thousands of people. Walking through one of these unique markets and hearing the people shouting and negotiating prices would liven up my heart as a child. In these markets they would sell; chickens, ducks, pigs, turkeys, beans, bananas, matoke, spices, cows, charcoal, stoves, livestock and everything a man or farmer would need to survive. Going to more civilized craft markets next to tourist locations, such as the National Theater would lay hundreds of tiny huts or buildings selling millions of amazing African crafts, animal skins, arrows, swords, axes, horns, paintings, sculptures and unbelievable antiques. This place was my second home as a child and every single one of the sellers knew my name for I was known for negotiating down prices and unraveling the seller’s tricks and cheats with which they used on tourists and unsuspicious customers.
But the people of the city are the ones that create Kampala I remember walking through the many villages in Kampala and seeing all the villagers smiling and waving at me, the children laughing and shouting MZUNGU! MZUNGU! The women that were cleaning and weaving would stop to say hello and ask how I was doing. This astounded me and made me feel warm and at home. How caring these people were, and even though they have nothing, they’d offer me help or invite me into their small mud homes to eat roasted corn. But Uganda has not always been like this. In the 70’s they were ruled by a ruthless tyrant—Idi Amin. Many suffered because of him and feared him greatly. Family members went missing; many of them cruelly killed or sent to starve in dungeons while children were left to be orphans. But the people recovered amazingly to become loving and caring even after the sorrow they had faced; it made me realize that even after the great bloodshed and fret that the people went through there was still laughter—there was still hope.
Kampala. A diverse city that I called home for six years of my life. But in those six years I did not just live there, I learned about the people, their ways, their tricks, and their values. The remarkable natural escarpment along the rift valley is one of my greatest memories. I loved nature so much in those years and the diversity of its greenery of the grass lands, forests, wetlands and lakes. The “rawness” of Kampala and its people, the cows and goats and chickens and monkeys and trees and forests and hills and everything mixed in with the city. And because Kampala is like this, I did not just call it home for half my life, but it became my home for the rest of my life to come, I will never forget the memories that it brought me for those six years of my life in Kampala—those six years of my life in the Pearl of Africa.

Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback