Arrival in Kampala

Long-term lists, short-term lists. Ticking items off lists. Contracts to be signed, contracts to be terminated. Fees paid repeatedly. Unexpected expenses. Unanticipated purchases. Phone calls, interviews. Calendars consulted and dates agreed upon. Vaccinations. Different categories of possessions packed and moved to storage and to various homes. Multiple goodbyes and send offs. Packing away lives, packing away possessions. It has come to this again. Why do we choose this rigmarole and turmoil?

Lorna and I are travelling again. This time not as tourists, but working for the Child’s i Foundation, a children’s charity based in Kampala, Uganda. I will be helping with their finances; Lorna will be using her legal and writing background in a variety of ways. On our trip to Africa last year we spent a couple of nights in Kampala. We went for a delicious curry at rooftop restaurant. I remember the city as being lush, humid, bright and busy.

Our 6am flight from Edinburgh meant a horrifically early taxi at 4am in a bleary blur of darkness, cold, and amber streetlights. I only fully woke up at Brussels Airport on our changeover with coffee and a sandwich. Here in the departure lounge the abstract idea of going to work for a charity in Uganda began to take on some form of reality as I looked around at the other passengers: returning Ugandans in leather jackets and brightly coloured dresses, tourists going on safari, and NGO workers. On the flight I followed the electronic route map on the screen above my tray table in-between X-Men films. I picked out towns and places where we had been on our Cape Town to Luxor trip last year. The names of Aswan, Dongola, Khartoum, and Addis Ababa provoked a mixture of smiles and shudders.

We arrived at Entebbe Airport ten hours later, aching and tired, but pleased to pass through the Ebola checks, visa control, and baggage collection with minimal hassle. Outside the arrivals hall in the warm night a throng of taxi drivers and chancers vied for our attention with shouts and smiles and name cards. I saw ‘Barrie + Lorna’ in large blue biro letters and nodded to our driver John who took us to his car. I sat in the front seat for the hour drive to Kampala and rolled down the window to take in the night and the smell of wood smoke, dance hall and reggae from roadside bars, perilous driving manoeuvres, and the cloying humid air under an ink black Africa sky.

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