Hot Hot Kampala (Volunteer Life Part IV)

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After many weeks of taking in the peaceful sanctuary of Lake Bunyonyi it was time to leave the nest… Just for a week though. I realised that I was getting very settled in with the region I’d been living in, and that I should experience more of Uganda. Katarina, my co-volunteer from Austria, was planning on going to India and she had to go to the capital of Uganda to get her visa. The capital also happened to be the lively, exciting, and never sleeping city of Kampala. I asked to tag along and got the green light and found myself packing my bag with my journal, books and enough clothes to last one week.

I made the huge mistake of not packing my tank top and shorts. The wrong decision became obvious once we hopped on a big crowded bus with no air condition. It was like a sauna in there. Though, the excitement of travelling to the city overpowered the discouraging heat. Seven hours later it felt like I was back in India in a way. Over-crowded streets with people carrying oversized bags and baskets of random assortments, colourful clothing everywhere, honking horns, traffic jams, tons of motorcycles and unbearable heat that could’ve made me faint if I didn’t have enough hydration in me.

We got picked up at a Chilli’s in Kabala-Gala by on Austrian friend we made at the lake. He was living in a place with a Ugandan family who was kind enough to let him stay there, and even more hospitable to take another two Bazungu (white people).

I had only two real things on my agenda while being in the largest city of Uganda: see some movies in the theatres and get a tattoo.

I have craved so many new film that had been coming out. Going to the cinemas and seeing some latest American production greatly satisfied that thirst. Some moved lived up to expectations, others couldn’t meet it. No big deal.

The reason for a tattoo came in Iceland a few years ago. My friend and I made a pledge that we would get a tattoo of every country we go to if it gave us a meaningful experience. For Iceland, I got a Viking rune that stood for luck. For India, I got the OM symbol over my heart. In Sikkim, which is deep North India, I got the Endless Knot found in Mahayana Buddhism. Now for Uganda, I decided I wanted a crested crane. I thought this bird would greatly resemble my experience of being in Uganda, since I see it often at the lake, it’s their national bird as well as on their flag, and besides all that it’s undeniably gorgeous.

I was living the life. By that I mean sort of like the one back home, but on vacation. No worries. No solid agenda. Just kicking back or exploring. I was getting the best ice cream, coffee, burgers. Meeting some real exuberant, cool and social people. They took me to comedy shows, reggae festivals, and the most delicious street food vendors I’ve ever been to.

It seemed like nothing could bug me out here in the crazy fun city. Except Donald Trump.

Whenever I got back from a great, full day in the city and wanted to relax and check my Facebook or Twitter feed, it was all about Mr. Trump. Even the Ugandan/French/British news was covering him! Each day and night there was some new statement. “We’re going to torture the families of terrorists!” “If anyone dares protest at my rally, somebody, please punch him in the face. I’ll pay for the legal fees!” Just a crazy, rich, dumb looking guy screaming, with huge crowds applauding. Even Paul, the Ugandan who was letting me stay at his place thought that this was as bad as it can get. He’s winning in the Republican primaries, too.

These are crazy, upside-down times back where I live. Everytime I travel out my country and look over at it from where I’m from, an un-easy feeling can come upon me. After my satisfying trip in Kampala and now back at the stunning Lake Bunyonyi, it’s easy to do a Buddhist practice called Tonglen. Just breathe in all the suffering, unnecessary worries, and problems you see and feel, and breath out all of the positivity, inspiration and perfection you see and feel.

It’s not hard to do that when you have the view I have from my hut.

Text: Hank Rugg

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