Welcome, my tourist friend!
Uganda is one of the five countries in East...(ha! jokes, I am sure you know the country.
Thanks to Idi Amin, mountain gorillas and Museveni. In case you don't, then thanks to Google, you will in a few minutes (I'll wait...).
Well, I hope you can place this dear country on the world map. If you can't, you aren't the only one. All that matters is that you have heard of it.
Most likely, while you're here, we shall probably have a new district or 25 more created. So, there is no pressure to cram all their names.
On that note...
Allow me to share some of the best hacks (and advice) that will guarantee you an incredible Ugandan experience and then some.
Of course my prayer is that, while you are visiting, you will fall so deeply in love with our motherland that you will replace your middle name with one of our own. Hello, Nabukeera! See? You are cherished here.
Okay, let's dive right in.
1. Fist of all, we need to address this. You will be called Mzungu often. Worry not, it's not an offensive term (I have known a few people catching feelings when called mzungu).
People will call you mzungu for various reasons, not just because of lighter skin. Hell, some Ugandan kid called me mzungu last week. This term is 'in the eyes of the beholder'. So, embrace it.
However, my friend makes some basic shirts with an interesting message engraved. It says, "My name is not Mzungu". Contact me if you need one.
2. When you smile at random people and they do not smile back, it's alright. It is nothing personal.
You've probably not given them a reason to smile yet. Just say, 'osiibye otya nyabo/ssebo' and watch the smile come to life. The effort and the accent always gets us.
Okay, let's get deeper.
3. One of the biggest concerns for tourists is about the dress code.
Common questions are; Do Ugandans have a dress code? Were mini skirts banned?
Well, women have rights here (most times) so no, mini skirts are not banned. (Don't quote me on this, it could change tomorrow #OurPresidentIsCrazy. Check his twitter for details.
4. You know those machines that cool people own in your home country?
Well, here we call them Boda Bodas. They are motor bikes that carry a maximum of 4 passengers. I am kidding, they are supposed to carry one or two at a time. They will get you anywhere around the city within minutes.
Anyway, they are dangerous so please stay away from them.
On the off-chance that you can't avoid using one, tell the cyclist this, "I am a princess, ride as you would a princess". They will get the idea and go slow.
By the way, this works regardless of gender, trust me.
5. Of course, I have to address this as well. For all my adventurous tourist friends out there.
Have you ever dreamed of free falling into the River Nile? This is for you then. Bungee jumping!
Yes, we have that here. It is one of the greatest things you will do in your life. So, get a car to Jinja and enjoy God's gift to Uganda. (Don't forget to share some pics)
Bungee jumping at the River Nile, Jinja (Uganda)
6. The party life in Uganda is crazy. When (notice I didn't use 'if') you make Ugandan friends, don't get surprised when they invite you to the bar/club every single night of the week.
Living it up is the rule of law here. So, get ready for some long nights. In a good way. Mostly.
7. As you will sadly observe, people operate at a slower pace than you are probably used to.
Please don't get impatient. In many households, 8:00 am actually means anytime between 8:30 to 12:00 noon. Though, I have to be honest, I struggle with accepting this as well.
P.S: Ugandans can sense your impatience with their time keeping. Trust me, they will act slower when they notice how impatient you are.
So, take a deep breath, admire the view, engage in people counting until your host is ready for you. (This is not helpful advice, I know. Like I said, I still struggle with this.)
Lastly (this is the most important of them all).
8. We understand that when your trip ends, you will be very eager to share your story with the world. But, please be considerate.
As you have noticed (but will feel tempted to ignore as you write your story/share you photos on social media), Uganda is not just about wild animals and poverty, we have pretty normal people. Mostly.
The "Poor African Child" story has been told several times, it will not get you a book deal with the Telegraph or the New York Times. Linton (#LintonLies) learnt the hard way. (You can google her...)
Don't hesitate to share the good as well as the bad. Media does a good job of showcasing Africa as one malnourished village, you don't need to assist them.
You know that Uganda is beautiful, let the world know as well.
Welcome to the Pearl of Africa!
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