On Poverty and the Road to Kampala

Had to get up at 4:50 today as we had a long drive to the border crossing and then Kampala, the capital of Uganda. We had breakfast, made our lunch to go, and were off before sunrise.

The border crossing went surprisingly well, no long queues or hassles. Although the Visa cost $100 per person. Yikes!!!

Thereafter it was an endless drive through the Ugandan landscape on our way to Kampala and to pick up the new arrivals. We arrived at around 16:30, a full day's drive, non-stop in the heat.

Our team had kitchen duty so we helped prepare food for 22 people. Vedran got some alone time with Jay, our cook and guide. Jay was a 40+ average size man with a big stomach, hidden behind a large T-shirt. He also wore a cap and cheap, but whole shoes. He spoke pleasantly, often with a smile. His smile was dominated by two white front teeth, then empty space on both sides, then a pair of shiny silver teeth, all decorated with a mustache.

Jay shared some personal stories about his family. He had bought a laptop for his son that goes to university. He met his wife in high school. We were also discussing poverty. Jay did not have shoes when he was little. A uniform was mandatory in schools, but the shoes are not. Vedran impressions that poverty is a lot less than people think in Europe. Jay said that someone from our group had thrown away a t-shirt and he had taken that and given it to the camp guard who was very happy to get it. Vedran said he was the one who threw away the t-shirt and was sorry he didn't think about giving it away. Vedran explained that we do give away clothes away in Sweden and that these clothes are sent to poor countries. Vedran also explained about his own experience as a refugee and getting food and clothes from Red Cross. Jay was very surprised to hear this and thought it was very good to work to move "whole the way to the top". That statement really put things into a perspective. Most of the Sweden population is in fact on the top without realizing it (and being grateful).

Jay mentioned that he is looking for a sponsor for his youngest daughter (He was politely asking for it). Vedran did not understand the concept of sponsorship at this point. Later on, when a girl from a village walk asked for the same, Vedran asked Jay and Jay explained that it is about keeping in contact, sending some money or clothes etc.

While on this topic we got into the subject that Vedran was about to bring an old smartphone and a laptop to give to poor kids. Vedran was afraid the smartphone would not work with a local SIM card because it might be locked to the Swedish operator. In that case, the receiver of the phone would just get sad after finding out about the problem. Regarding the computer, it was the problem of packing and also not knowing if we would get the opportunity to give it in a proper way. Jay explained that he had already bought a laptop for his son that is in the university, but that he would need one for accounting on the road. Jay employer and gAdventures would probably look down on this behavior of begging towards a customer that has already paid a large sum for a two weeks trip. However, Vedran did not. Remembering from his family's time of desperation, it was an essential survival skill to ask for help, no matter how inappropriate that request might be. It is probably that attitude that has helped Jay move from a poor kid without shoes to a tour leader.

After dinner, we didn't feel tired for the first time so we stayed up talking with our co-travellers. Vedran had a long conversation with two 24-year-old boys about happiness. One of them was apparently very stuck up and a bit rude as many young men often are, but we realize that people talk and argue just to put forward their opinions. Whereas Vedran usually discusses scientific facts. There is a bit of a difference in the starting point. Good news is that people seem to like Dilek. Not that this is a major thing, but historically Dilek sometimes ended up in small tiffs with people, but there has been a real change in the past couple of years. And Dilek's New Years resolution was to keep it up, even when she has no assignment or daily distraction. So far so good...