by Dr. Gregory Bartha
November 23, 2015
I spent two days in Kampala, in late September before returning to the US for a six week break. Pastor Simon Peter and I started off from the village about 8:00 AM. As is usual in Uganda, there were numerous side trips and detours: a photo op with school children at a water well, a brief stop to copy travel documents, a short meeting with another pastor in Mbale and a brief stop to change money. When we finally arrived at the bus area, the bus we had planned to take was still filling, so there would be a delay. We took another bus that was just getting ready to depart, the hour being about 10:30 AM. We took the last two seats. The ride was rough, but we arrived in Kampala in good time, four hours later. During most of the trip, salesmen were walking up and down the aisle hawking various products such as cough drops and liniments for men who work hard.
After arriving in Kampala, we set off for our hotel, about a 15 minute walk. At the Kampala Holiday Galaxy Guesthouse, our luggage was thoroughly searched. The price was $13.00 per day and included a light breakfast. The room was sparse, but adequate with our double bed with mosquito net and a private bathroom. The room was hot, but there was an overhead fan. Later, we walked to the Emirates airline office to begin getting Simon Peter’s ticket for travel to the US. We had to cross a number of very busy streets. Traffic is chaotic with vans and motorcycles coming from all directions. At one crossing, I told Simon Peter, “This is deadly!” He replied, “Yes, it’s deadly, but we cross”; and we crossed.
That evening, we ate dinner at a fast food type restaurant which offered some Mexican dishes. The night was very restful. The fan was effective in cooling the room and masking the street noise. The next morning, we again set off on foot for the American Embassy to get Simon Peter’s US visa. The numbers of people on the streets is unbelievable – thousands upon thousands. Again, we needed to cross many extremely busy streets. Simon Peter knows very well how to navigate the Kampala streets and I was safe following his lead. He said I would have to become a city boy. We passed furniture makers, woodcarvers and a variety of other craftsmen. One crippled man was crawling down the sidewalk with flip-flops on his hands.
The US Embassy is heavily fortified. The American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed several years ago. Many people were waiting for visas. It is difficult for a Ugandan citizen to get a US visa. American officials state that too many Ugandans travel to the US and never return. Embassy officials require a letter of invitation from some person or organization in the US, proof of employment in Uganda and good evidence for a trustworthy US sponsor. The wait was long, but Simon Peter was successful in obtaining a two-year visa.
In the afternoon, we went to the Entebbe Zoo with his friend, Mulekwa Eriakinu. It was cool and there was light rain. There were not that many animals in the zoo; three lions, one white rhino, several zebras and impalas, one elephant and many types of birds and monkeys – but the setting was magnificent. There were huge trees and vines in all shapes and a beautiful view of Lake Victoria which stretched out in front of us like an ocean.
We had dinner in an outdoor restaurant and made our way back to the hotel around 7:00 PM. This was the time when people were returning home from work. The streets and sidewalks were even more crowded than in the morning. We had to cross four extremely busy streets. I was led by the hand across all of them. People were bedding down for the night on the sidewalks. Stores were still crowded. The next day, we toured through Makerere University, Uganda’s premier institute of higher education with over 100,000 students. The grounds were reasonably attractive and surprisingly, not too congested. Then, we were off to Entebbe airport and America.