bus rides here in uganda are never really what i would describe as a pleasant experience, but there are definitely different levels of unpleasantness. i recently experienced two of my more negative trips on a recent trek to kampala. i was heading to kampala due to the unbearable shooting pains i was experiencing every time inhaled and exhaled, which definitely contributed to the negativity of my experience.
part one: the saggy old breasts.
the trip to kampala is anywhere from 5 hours on a really good day to 10+ hours on a really bad day (this is especially frustrating because in a private vehicle it can be done in about 3-4 hours tops). since i was in excruciating pain, this trip was especially taxing.
the journey started out well. when i arrived at the bus park, i found out there was a line of two-busloads worth of people who already had tickets (meaning i would have to wait for two more buses to come before i would finally be able to even board a bus). fortunately due to my whiteness (“thank you for coming to help our people”), one of the bus company’s employees allowed me to cut in front of all the ticket-holding locals in line and board the bus that was getting ready to leave (yay white privilege!)
this is where the day started to take a turn for the worst. there aren’t usually lines of people waiting to get on the bus, so i’m able to secure myself a window seat (window seats are of vital importance here since deodorant isn’t really a thing here. like, i could seriously get behind the toms shoes campaign if they donated a stick of deodorant for every pair of their ugly shoes that a hipster buys). today, i wasn’t so lucky and instead ended up in a seat between two ugandan women. the lady to my right was a young mother holding her maybe 6 month old baby in her lap. the woman to my left was a bit older and appeared to be holding her 5 year old grandson on her lap. this was not an ideal situation, but at least i had a seat on the bus that was leaving immediately.
aside from the body odor issue, another advantage of the window seat is the ability to lean against window and fall asleep as the fresh, dust-filled air fills your lungs. being in between these two hefty ladies did not give me that option, but i somehow managed to fall asleep. i awoke to find a rather large and saggy uncovered ugandan breast in my face (this is not even remotely sexy… i would also support a toms campaign that distributed much-needed bras). the young mother decided that even though her baby was suckling on her right tit, the left one should obviously be out too, especially since i had fallen asleep on her left shoulder. i turned to my right looking to move my sleepy head to the other ugandan chubster (g. smith reference, ftw), but was shocked to find out that grandma is actually mom too, and that five year old
grandson is still breastfeeding.
i guess i don’t really know what the protocol is for what age one should stop breastfeeding, and i can’t be sure what age exactly this kid was. however, i do know that he was later able to ask for, receive and demolish a bottle of fanta (i’m fairly confident that if you can order and drink a bottle of soda, it’s time for you to stop sucking on your mom’s teat).
part two: the dirty ole thieving bastards.
i ended up spending a few days at medical before making my return trip. since i had been treated for what ended up being pleurisy (turns out, it’s not just for old people in the middle ages anymore), i was in a lot less pain this time. i was even able to secure the window seat and was pleased to share my row with two older gentlemen who did not possess milk-producing breasts nor children to drink from them.
the body odor issue was definitely there, but fortunately i had control of the window and could simply hang my head out the window like a dog and breath in the dust and other mysterious (fecal) particles. despite their unpleasant scent, these guys seemed pretty nice. when the conductor came around to collect money, there was a problem: the gentleman in the middle seat only had 24,000 ugandan shillings and the ticket cost 25,000 (for the record the currency exchange rate usually puts the u.s. dollar at about 2300 ugandan shillings).
i’ve recently discovered that i’m perhaps not the nicest person to random ugandans i meet on public transport. it’s something i’m trying to work on. so, with this in mind, i ponied up the extra 1,000 shillings so he wouldn’t get kicked off the bus (this is only partially selfless. i didn’t want to risk having somebody worse take over his place next to me). he thanked me and i dosed off to sleep proud of the kindness i had just shown (you know, us rich white people can be pretty awesome sometimes).
i awoke to find a skewer of meat being shoved in my face by a street vendor (this is a common thing, and the riskiest part about leaving one’s face hanging out an open window). what was strange is that the man sitting next to me was handing 3,000 shillings out the window to purchase three skewers for himself (2 chicken, 1 beef). this was slightly annoying since i had paid the extra 1,000 he seemed to be lacking a couple hours prior when we were departing. since i’m trying to be nicer, i just ignored it because nothing was really going to come of me making a crazy-white-person scene (i was tempted to take one of his chicken skewers as repayment, but i had purchased a sandwich that morning in kampala, so didn’t really need it).
the sandwich is something that doesn’t really exist here in uganda (well, at least, not outside the capitol city). one of the biggest perks of going to kampala is getting a “quality cuts” sandwich. my favorite is the salami with spicy mustard and cheddar cheese.
i fell back asleep only to be awakened by the dude sitting next to me reaching past me to purchase a bottle of soda through the window (it was 2,000 shillings, bringing his total expenditures up to 5,000 shillings). i decided to reward myself with a bottle of soda to go with my beautiful sandwich. i reached down to grab my sandwich, but it was no longer in the top of my open bag. instead it was on the floor of the bus, half-eaten (though thankfully still wrapped up, although i probably would have still eaten if it had touched the floor. let’s be honest, salami, cheddar cheese and spicy mustard doesn’t happen in the village, ever).
i shockingly managed to keep my cool, despite the fact that he stole half my sandwich after i paid for the remainder of his ticket. perhaps i’ve turned over a new leaf in my life (that or the other half of the sandwich was delicious enough to calm my anger).
riding the bus is an unpleasant, but necessary part of being a peace corps volunteer here in uganda. while these experiences may seemed terrible at the time, i now look at them fondly and look forward to what ridiculousness i’ll be exposed to the next time i ride the bus.