August 30, 2010
Uganda – Day 1 – Kampala
I arrived in Entebbe at around 11pm. The first thing I noticed as I stepped off the plane was the scent of woodsmoke in the air. It wasn’t overpowering, but it felt out of place at what otherwise seemed like a modern airport. The smell would be a constant companion for the next two weeks; even in relatively urban areas, a significant amount of cooking is powered by wood or charcoal fires.
I found my bag quickly, quite thankful that it arrived at all after four planes over three continents, and was one of the first in line to go through immigration. I provided my passport and immigration form, and the agent behind the counter told me that the visa fee was $50. I was ready for this, and handed over a crisp $50 bill. She put it into a drawer, shuffled some papers around, asked me a question, stamped some papers, and told me that I needed to pay $50 for the visa. I was ready for this, too, since Kristi had warned me that the same had been tried on her. I pointed out that I already gave her $50. She pretended not to hear me, and told me again that the fee was $50. I said, more loudly, this time. “I already gave you $50. You put it in that drawer.” and pointed. She pretended to check, stamped my passport, and I was on my way.
Kristi met me near the airport exit and introduced me to her friend Leanne (from the States) and Leanne’s boyfriend Emma, a native Ugandan, who were giving us a ride. The car was one that Emma had borrowed. Actually, not borrowed: was holding as collateral on a debt that was owed him. It was a heap. When they’d gone through airport security they’d popped the trunk, then discovered that they couldn’t get it closed again. It still wasn’t closed so, after a bit of ineffectual pounding, we used a piece of the clothesline I carry with me when traveling to tie it closed. I felt very boyscouty.
We drove about an hour into Kampala, to the Emin Pasha, a very swanky hotel there, and I experienced the best shower of my life. The shower head was a large disk, about a foot in diameter, with evenly spaced water outlets, and it poured such a torrential flow of water that, were you to be subjected to it involuntarily, it would qualify as a war crime.