My First Date with Uganda

A couple weeks ago I caught a smell in the air of burning wood and had this weird visceral memory and turned to Shaun and said, “This is what I remember Kenya smelling like.” After three years it was weird that that smell could suddenly link me back to a place. When I left the airport in Uganda I breathed that smell in again and felt comforted at the familiarity.

One of my favorite parts of travel is the cab ride from the airport. It is the first date with a new place. You are forming your early impressions and noticing all of the places’ quirks. Last night when I arrived I was immediately charmed by Uganda. I cannot explain why. I think one of the reasons was the ease of the travel experience. Customs was easy and comfortable, I spotted my luggage on the carousel right away, and when I exited the airport the hotel driver Esra was waiting for me outside. He was friendly and immediately made me feel calm. There was a sense of quiet around the airport not like the hussle and bussle of the Nairobi airport. On the cab ride to the hotel Esra opened all the windows and I inhaled the smell I remembered. I looked out and saw an election poster sign and far off lights, but mostly it was dark and there was not much to see. I struggle with whether in academia I am what we call an “Africanist” and I realized regardless of that label there is certainly something about the countries I have been in Africa that enthralls me.

When I got to the hotel (which has a motto based on making their guests feel like a friend) they told me they offered each guest a complimentary drink. When I had wine in Kenya it was never very good, but this woman assured me it was a nice dry South African red. Obviously being me I immediately spilled it on the floor of my room and had to call the front desk to help me clean it up, but that is not the point. I slept that night in my mosquito net canopy bed and didn’t feel the anxiety I expected. I felt cozy and excited.

I went down to breakfast this morning and realized I had never traveled by myself before internationally. Everyone else was paired off at breakfast and I was there with my book and eating my beloved African mangos. Being by myself gave me this new sense of confidence. After breakfast I walked to the hotel’s “beach” saying hello to everyone and snapping a few pictures.

The scenery feels more like a jungle than a beach lake type town. It is overcast today which adds to this mystical feeling. It is either overcast or the smoke from things burning. I am sitting on my hotel room balcony watching people bike and walk by on the dirt roads. It is peaceful here and I enjoy listening to the sounds of birds chirping and people starting their days. I am excited to see how this relationship progresses.

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