Professors learn invaluable lessons in Uganda
It’s always fun to show friends places that you already know.
I had the change to do just that today in Kampala with my friends and colleagues John Hamilton (pix 1, left) and Ken Christopher (pix 1, right and pix 2), both of whom teach with me at Park University. I lived for almost a year in Uganda. This is the first trip here for both of my colleagues.
As we drove through the streets, it was fascinating to watch their reaction to Uganda’s many eccentricities. For starters, my friends couldn’t believe the traffic and especially the boda-bodas, motorcycle taxis that zoom in and out of traffic with a suicidal, maniacal fervor. They also noted Kampala’s entrepreneurial spirit that is reflected in the thousands of tiny mom and pop shops and kiosks (sometimes, nothing more than a table and a chair) selling everything from vegetables to cell phone recharging.
The strongest impression on all of us was made during a brief tour of the working-class neighborhood of Kasanga, where I had been several times before. Our tour guide was Tabu, my friend and our driver. John and Ken were, I think, both equally taken aback by the difficult living conditions and the kindness and openness of the people. We visited a church where they were having Sunday supper (beans, potatoes, and spaghetti), and we were all greeted like long lost cousins. We took pictures of the church and of the kids, who squealed with delight when shown their digital image.
During our tour, we briefly chatted with a young university student who was sitting on a stoop studying for her exams. We did our professorial duty, and urged her to study hard. She smiled, and assured us that she was doing her very best.
For all of us, I think the day was a count-your-blessings lesson. For me, it was also a reminder that Uganda is a country in need, and that it is worth my time and effort to try to do my tiny little part to make it a better place.