The evening had a crispness to it that unless I had experienced it myself, I would have denied it possible in East Africa. But despite the lower temperatures, I felt sweat bead on my forehead as I stared at the task in front of me: arrange items in luggage at the airport to meet weight requirements.
After finding ourselves in transition, we somehow managed to stuff all of our belongings into three bags apiece as we said farewell to Uganda. During the packing process, we picked up the bags countless times, attempting to stuff them to the same weight as we had no scale. In the end, we succeeded. The only problem was, despite matching them within a kilogram of weight with one another, they were all too heavy.
“How the heck are we leaving with more stuff than we came with?” It’s a mystery we might never solve.
Thankfully we had arrived at the airport an hour earlier than needed. By the time we had finished moving this item to that bag and that item to this bag and reweighing all of the bags no less than 3 times apiece, we had taken every minute of that hour.
We pushed two carts laden with the luggage, while each of us also carried two book bags as our carryon and personal item. If I’d had more energy, I might have worried that others would be annoyed by the large trunks we hauled through the security line. But I didn’t give it a second thought as we pushed onward.
Now, we look forward in anticipation of what is to come. But this week, we felt it only fitting to take a moment and reflect on our time in Jinja, Uganda. Here are ten of our favorite things.
1. Urban Jungle
Our second week in Uganda was quite eventful — not only did we buy the locally popular Bajaj Boxer motorcycles, but we also took our first trip to The Urban Jungle. It is the untamed section of town where things are made — welders solder in the streets with no protection, men cut steel, cars are rebuilt, and calloused hands work tirelessly on machines.
What we enjoyed most about The Urban Jungle was not the adrenaline rush that at any moment something dangerous might cross our path, but that it gave us the opportunity to spend time with the men who worked there. When we took our bikes in for tune-ups, we knew it would be a three hour process. That meant sitting on the concrete steps of someone’s shop for several hours and engaging in conversations with workers, developing relationships, and building friendships.
2. Indoor Outdoor Living
Even while indoors we felt connected with nature in Uganda. And that’s not just because of the African bugs that tried to become our roommates. We spent much of our time on the verandah with lush green hills as our backdrop. Occasionally, on our days off, we would go camping beside the Nile or for a ride on our piki piki’s through isolated villages. Somedays, we didn’t even realize the electricity had been cut because we were so detached from technology. Being detached opened our eyes to the natural beauty around us.
3. Central Market
We will miss buying one pineapple, two kilos of Irish potatoes, one kilo of tomatoes, a hand of sweet bananas, four bell peppers, three avocados, four mangos, half kilo of cucumbers, one large papaya and four large carrots for 20,500 UGX — roughly 5.68 USD, or the price of one pineapple in the States. But even more than the prices, we will miss our Produce Lady, Florence.
4. Cozy Ugandan Rain
When it rained, it poured. But we loved the chill in the air that came right before the rains started. The winds would pick up and we would go around the house and close windows, to prevent showers from drenching us inside. Coffee was made, books retrieved, and naps were taken to the beat of the Ugandan sky pounding on our metal roof.
5. The Village
We loved going to the village. We loved riding our piki piki’s down narrow dirt paths, sitting with our students’ families under the shade of banana trees, hearing their struggles turn to triumphs, and praying with them.
6. Beautiful Smiles
Whether we were in the village or in town at the market, Ugandans were always calling out to us in greeting. If we needed help with something, someone was there to lend a hand. It is a beautiful country filled with beautiful people.
7. Paneer and Tandoori
Our Bajaj Boxer motorcycles, Paneer and Tandoori (named in honor of Bajaj’s Indian roots), started out as twin Boxer 150’s. But they each had a personality of their own by the time we were done with them. Gabriel went for a classy orange and matte gray color scheme, while I went for a more bold and ridiculous Red Bull theme. I was still waiting on stickers to arrive when the motorcycles were sold, but that didn’t mean the bike hadn’t already given me wings. We loved racing down dirt roads and dodging the abundant potholes that lined the roads. Whoever came in second had to buy milkshakes.
8. House of Hannah
Oh, how we loved the time we spent with our girls at House of Hannah (the name of our home). We loved the stories they told us, getting to know their families, seeing how much they loved their families, and learning more about their culture — even the part about eating bugs. Our favorite moments were spent with them on our verandah, dancing or singing, playing cards, or simply talking while hanging out in hammocks. The time we had with them and the laughs we shared are things we will always treasure.
The girls at House of Hannah always enjoyed a good "football" (soccer) match, especially when Uncle Gabriel was playing. We loved spending time down at the fields, whether we were playing or cheering on the sidelines for a close match.
One of the hardest parts of living life as an expat is having friends scattered across continents. With each move, new friendships are made. And with each move, difficult goodbyes are said as you're left unsure when you'll see each other again. But we are so thankful for difficult goodbyes — it means the friendships we made were authentic. Thank you to all of our friends who have encouraged us during this transition. We don't like to say goodbyes, so we'll just plan to see you again!
BONUS: What we won't miss? Squatty Potties.