5 years ago

From Guest to Uncle | Kampala, Uganda

After leaving Rwanda one last time, my stop in Kampala was destined to be a quick one.

Two nights and three days to chill, do laundry, and watch MLS Cup.

The latter was the most difficult to accomplish. Finding a place that had Fox Sports Africa (on the continent, not just Uganda, mind you) was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Unreal.

Thus, after communicating with various hostels, guesthouses, and an AirBnB, I finally found one that had it all.

Justus’ AirBnB listing in Kampala had everything I needed for a comfortable stay, and more. It’d be the first time I’d have a washer/dryer combo since leaving South Africa (halloa!). Plus, incredibly fast Wi-Fi and the ability to watch MLS Cup in the middle of the night. A winning combo, pun intended. Congrats to my Seattle peeps!

But all those conveniences proved to be the least memorable thing about his home, despite proving to be absolutely clutch after missing them for so long.

Even before I met Justus or his girlfriend Jaireth, their quick communication and willingness to help stood out.

I arrived well after the time I had agreed to, yet Jaireth and Justus (who was out of town running a triathlon), ensured I settled in and even welcomed me with an ice-cold bottle of Coke.

Just before leaving the walk-through, Jaireth invited me to join them and their friends for their 1-year-old’s birthday dinner party the following evening. Kourtney, a.k.a. Munchie, is adorable and a very happy and curious baby. It wouldn’t be the last momentous occasion they would invite me to.

The pair of nights I’d paid to be there went quickly, and they suggested I extend my stay, so I did. Those extra couple of days allowed me to settle into Kampala a bit more. I joined Justus for some tennis, hit a movie, and discovered the delights that are rolexes and pork joints. Plus, more of Jaireth’s home cooking, which she always shared without hesitation (and without needing to, of course).

AirBnB Kampala Uganda Tennis
Probably right into the net, as usual.
AirBnB Kampal Uganda rolex
Meet the Rolex. Eat the Rolex if ever in Uganda. Or several, as I did. So good!

At the pork joint Justus and Jaireth again suggested I stick around a few more days. I’d be missing out on a big wedding and a Santa Run near the shores of Lake Victoria, they said.

It was an invitation I couldn’t refuse from a couple I was truly fortunate to meet. Some of the nicest, most hospitable, kind, and funny people I met in Africa, for sure.

So, there I was, Muzungu-ing around Kampala a bit longer, which gave me time to hit the dentist, play more tennis, go to another Sudanese embassy to try to sort out a visa, see Rogue One (the force was not strong in Uganda; the nice, 3d theater was 90% empty for the premiere!), drink more Guinness Foreign Extras, and confirm that Justus truly is my brother from another mother.

As I couldn’t roll up to the wedding in backpacker chic mode, Justus let me borrow a shirt and some sweet suede shoes, both of which fit perfectly.

Amanya and Olivia’s wedding turned out to be one of the most memorable I’ve ever been to. Not only did I feel underdressed, but a little out of place, too, as I was the only white person there for much of the night. Even the groom’s brother did a double-take and asked if I was lost and at the wrong wedding, which made me laugh (on the inside).

AirBnB Kampala Uganda Wedding
Who invited that guy?

The floral arrangements were some of the most stunning I’d ever seen, with at least 70 roses (I stopped counting) on the centerpiece of our table. Unbeknownst to me, until Jaireth told me later, I sat next to the mayor of Kampala and played my cards right by offering him my bottle of cold water, which I’d yet to open.

The biggest surprise, and the reason my camera wasn’t allowed, was that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni made an appearance at the reception (along with a speech and a bit of a faux pas on the mic)! The Katabarwas played a significant role in modern Ugandan history, so there was quite a distinguished guest list. And me.

AirBnB Kampala Uganda
Thanks for the bowtie, Justus!

After a late night at the wedding, the time to don Santa hats and run 10k came all too soon. But it was a good time and healthful way to spend Sunday Funday. Young kids running barefoot around me for a while were a good reminder that my well-worn shoes were nothing to complain about.

Kampala Santa Run
ho, ho, holy cow I am out of shape.

A couple of days later, we began the Great Ugandan road trip, which would take us east to Jinja and Sipi Falls, northwest to Murchison Falls National Park, down south to Queen Elizabeth National Park, and into Mbarara, where Justus’ parents live, for Christmas and maybe boxing day, before returning to Kampala.

But, the travel gods had different plans.

Before we even got out of Kampala, a flat tyre (spelling it like a local) put a stop to our roadie. Then, when we were nearly to Mbale, a drunken police officer with a large gun and a threatening demeanor did the same thing.

AirBnB kampala uganda roadie
So it begins…

While standing under a waterfall the next day, Justus got hit hard by a foreign object and required stitches. The day after the van had major overheating issues. The decision was made to head back to Kampala and spend Christmas there given the circumstances. But we had a good time and it was quite the experience nonetheless!

 

AirBnB Kampala Uganda roadie
Ouch.
Chilling outside the hospital.
AirBnB Kampala Uganda roadie
Sipi Falls
AirBnB Kampala Uganda roadie
This march is part of the imbalu ceremony. Circumcision soon for the two kids in the middle.

More time on the tennis court, more of Jaireth’s home cooking, more time playing and dancing with Munchie, and more FIFA at their home was how I spent my last few days in Kampala. It was great! I also showed them that not all Americans can bake chocolate chip cookies right the first time.

It was very hard to say goodbye.

AirBnB Kampala
Good times with the tennis Crew on Christmas Day!
AirBnB Kampala Uganda
Guess I had to melt the butter first. I never bake. The 3rd time was the charm.

Justus and Jaireth were truly kind to me and made me feel beyond comfortable in their home. We had some great conversations, enjoyed many meals at home, and grew close. I truly felt as if I had arrived as an AirBnB guest and was leaving as an uncle to Munchie. And brother to Justus and Jaireth.

AirBnB Kampala Uganda
With Justus, Jaireth, and Munchie my last night in Kampala.

And the #UncleLife is where it’s at for me.

I absolutely love kids, but spending 2+ weeks around an adorable pooping, crying, draining, needing machine that is a 1-year-old served as a good reminder that I am too clean, too adventurous, and just too damn selfish to ever want one of my own. But she is cute as hell, as you see.

AirBnB Kampala Uganda
Mah new niece!

After 17 nights with my Ugandan family, A Great Journey continued to Kenya…where I ran into Justus and Jaireth again!

Go karts in Nairobi with Justus, Jaireth, and co.
Racing on over to…Ethiopia!

NB: This post is ridiculously late, and probably not as good as the first time I wrote it. WordPress and Ethiopian internet/electricity failed me and made the first, nearly-finished attempt disappear. It was not a happy day.

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