Friday, March 14, 2008


Far too much has happened in the past day for me to detail all of it, so I will tell you about one major step for me: traveling by matatu. Matatus are kind of a cross between a bus and a taxi: minivans that seat 14 passengers (2 in the front seat next to the driver, plus four rows of three), plus a driver and a conductor. The matatus drive up and down specific major routes, and people get on and off all along the route, though the matatu doesn't start out until it is full.

There is no doubt some rule or understanding about the fares involved, but I have no idea what it is. I have paid 500 shillings one way on the route, and been asked to pay 1,000 in the opposite direction. When I traveled with Peter, my contact from Life in Africa, our journey cost 300 Ugandan shillings (henceforth Ush) for the two of us, but for me alone, it was 500. So go figure. (For those who do figure, I exchanged $100 for 160,000 Ush. So, what is that? $1=1600 Ush, I guess.)

But I ventured forth this morning to register with the embassy, which required taking two matatus to districts I hadn't visited before. While waiting for matatu #2 to start, vendors approached the windows with all sorts of things: pens, and "air time" for cell phones, and toiletries. The woman behind me beckoned a woman who had a basket full of combs and other items. "Toospick" she said, and the vendor handed in a vial of toothpicks. 500 Ush. The woman then gestured to her ears, and the vendor handed in...a container of Q-tips. 500 Ush.

Man, am I embarrassed.

Time's almost up here at the internet cafe. I have pictures to share, but they'll have to wait.

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