I have to admit, sometimes the cultural differences I have with people here drive me crazy! Eric and I went to Kampala this week to do our monthly grocery shopping. We always look forward to going, because we get to eat some pizza and sometimes go to a movie. It's always nice to get away, but the journey to Kampala is also stressful enough that we are always ready to get home. By the time we were leaving Kampala this trip, I was annoyed. We had gone to the immigration offices to get visas, and most of the workers there were far from helpful. At the grocery store later, some medicine we had already purchased was taken from our basket when we weren't looking. The most annoying thing for me in Uganda is communicating. Many times, people use facial expressions instead of talking. If you ask them a question, they will just raise their eyebrows or move their lips. Somehow, I'm supposed to know what that means! In my opinion, this is just rude, and it makes me so mad! Deep down, I know it is just a cultural difference, but many times I can't stop the frustration. As we were loading groceries into the car to leave, another vehicle quickly pulled into the spot next to me almost hitting our car door. Then, they quickly opened their door, and hit me in the back. It was not hard, but definitely enough to add to my frustration! As we were pulling out of our parking lot, I voiced my frustration to Eric, "Ah! The people here are so inconsiderate sometimes!". As you will see, God took it upon himself to prove me wrong. Sometimes I have to learn the hard way.
As soon as we pulled out of the parking lot, we realized that we had hit 5 o'clock traffic. You may think traffic in Dallas or Houston is bad, but let me tell you, it is NOTHING compared to the capital city of Uganda. In my hometown of about 200,000 people, you can drive one mile and maybe hit three to four stop lights. In Kampala, there is a total of one intersection with a traffic light. Yes, thats right, ONE! In a city of TWO MILLION people there is ONE stoplight!! Every other intersection is controlled by round-abouts. Adding to the confusion, there are no lines painted on many of the streets. So, a street big enough for two lanes may have three cars driving next to each other or just one car just driving down the middle. Nobody really knows where to be, because their is no line to indicate where people should be driving. It is complete and utter chaos sometimes, and I don't help by constantly gasping for air when I think Eric may hit someone. Since there are no traffic lights, you basically wait in traffic just hoping someone gets brave enough to merge into the round-abouts. If they don't, you can sit there for hours.
Eric and I bought a car a few days ago. This was our first time to be driving in Kampala alone. Typically someone else is driving us, or we are on a motorcycle taxi (called boda boda).We were so excited to finally have our own car and some freedom. We had been sitting in traffic for about thirty minutes, trying to find music on the Ipod, and avoid the people trying to sell us things at our car windows. All of a sudden, we hear a loud pop, and smoke started pouring out from under our hood. Traffic was backed up for blocks, and we do not know anyone who lives in Kampala. Everyone we know lives about an hour (or 3 in this traffic) away. Eric and I both just stared at eachother with the same look in our eyes.
"What in the world are we going to do?!?"
Before Eric or I could get out of the car, the man in front of us was already out standing at our car asking Eric to pop the hood. He quickly asked me to move to the driver seat and put the car in neutral. Within five minutes, Eric and this man, Edson, had the car pushed up on the side of the road. We said thank you to Edson, and told him we would call someone in Mityana to come help us. He didnt leave though. He offered to call a mechanic friend of his to help us. He got off the phone, and told us the mechanic would come tow the car and fix it in the morning. Seeing how bad the traffic was, we knew that it would take a while for the tow truck to get there. We again said thank you for the help, but he didnt leave. We sat there for almost three hours waiting on the tow truck! Edson never left. He stayed with us the whole time, while trying to find the problem under the hood and finding a hotel for us to stay at. Once the tow truck finally came, he went with us to the garage and drove us to find the hotel. The next morning, he even came to pick us up at the hotel and take us to get our car. We asked for directions out of Kampala, and instead of just telling us, he got in the car with us to direct us. We dropped him at the edge of the city, where he left to find a ride back.
As we were driving away, I was still a little irritated because of the whole mess. We had missed an event back in Mityana, and it had not been the relaxing trip I wanted. As I was sulking in the front seat, I felt God tugging on my heart. As He was speaking to me, I thought, "Was Edson considerate enough for you, Kimberly?"
All of a sudden, I felt like such a jerk. As you remember, right before we met Edson, I had told Eric how inconsiderate I though people here were. I was acting as though I am always the considerate one, and everyone else is wrong. Never have I pushed someone's car for them, even though I have seen people broken down on the road. I would never consider sitting with them for three hours and taking them to a hotel. Lets just say, God put me in my place really fast. I realized that I often find flaws in other people, but never see them in myself. God also helped me have a different view on Uganda, even in the midst of my frustration. I also realized that the people that had frustrated me were exceptions. Many of them did nothing wrong, it was just myself not adjusting to culture. For the most part, everyone I have met in Uganda has been incredibly nice and considerate. Most people here would do anything for me, even though I may have had limits on what I would do for them. It is another example of how much more I still have to learn.