Visiting Uganda ~ Mistakes Made & Lessons I Learned

Me on the Bus to Kampala

On one afternoon a friend of mine who is currently living in Uganda invited me to visit. After thinking for a while I thought why not? So I texted and said I will be coming on the last week of November. The initial plan was to leave on 23rd Friday and come back Sunday 2nd. I did the most sensible thing and applied for leave the entire week. Not long after, my leave was approved to confirm my trip to Uganda (I even thought of making it an EA trip but changed my mind). Nothing could stand between me and my week-long vacation. Or so I thought.  Turns out, I was not in control of what went on. Not in the least. Here are the mistakes I made, Misfortunes I couldn’t anticipate and Lessons I learned from it all.

Misfortunes I couldn’t anticipate

1. A week prior to my trip, I learned that the department has planned a team building event for Friday 30th. While the event is not mandatory, as a GA I felt obligated to attend. So I toyed with the idea of coming back on Thursday 29th night.

2. Three days to my trip, my Thesis Proposal oral defence was slotted between Tuesday 27th – Thursday 29th with an email requiring everyone to attend all sessions. The worst part is as I write this, the presentation list isn’t out yet. Which means I could be presented on any of those days.

3. The thesis proposal document was required by Friday 23rd, at 2 pm.

4. The latest bus left at 6.30 yet I had a class that ran up to 8.30. Needless to say, I missed this. Sorry, Dr O.

Mistakes I Made

I always pride myself on my ability to plan for trips (I have planned two successful trips with my friends). So my own trip should have been a walk in the park to plan. Especially since I don’t have to look for a hotel or things to do or evaluate which bus to go with. I guess this got to my head and I ended up making a few mistakes that could have been bad.

1. I lost track of time on the morning of travel. I had a lot of things to do and I was not in a rush to do them until it was 10 mins to my bus leaving and I was on the opposite side of town from where I should take the bus trying to get my yellow card(refer to mistake number 3).

2. I ended up putting too much on my to-do list on the day of travel. Despite knowing two days before that I should submit my proposal (which was done by the way), I slotted the actual submission for Friday. I also slotted doing my hair, getting the yellow fever shots, and checking out the staff party. Yet I had booked the five pm bus.

3. I failed to get my yellow fever shot earlier. The moment I decided I would be going to Uganda, my boyfriend reminded me I needed the shot. I said I would get it and didn’t until literally 10 mins to my bus departure time. I had decided to wake up by 7-8 to go to the salon but I ended up waking up at 9.30. My hair was done by 11.30(thanks to my quick stylist). I went to the house to prepare. Left the house at 1 pm. Was in school by 2.16 pm. I silly dallied there for an hour or so and in the midst submitted my proposal. At 3.22 I decided to check out the staff party. I wasn’t worried since I could take a motorcycle to town so traffic couldn’t affect me. At 3.50 the second motorcycle driver says they don’t get into town.

I briefly consider taking a cab but decide the cost is not worth it. Big mistake. At 4.02 I take a matatu to town and it’s stuck in traffic I get to town at 4.35. I start running, suitcase in hand, looking for a pharmacy that administers the shot. The sure one is too far. At 4.40 5 failed attempts, I get a lady who knows a pharmacy that can help. She offers to take me. At 4.48 I get the shot but the yellow card is in another branch. Luckily the branch is directly on the route to the bus station. Now picture two ladies running across town one in an apron and another carrying a suitcase. Not a pretty picture.

At 4.56 weeks arrive at the branch. Lady gets a card and we decide she will fill it at the bus station. I ask her to run ahead seeing as though I am unfit, I am sweating like a pig and I am carrying a suitcase. Instead, she offers to help carry the suitcase so she grasps one side. Now picture two ladies running carrying a suitcase together at t-room. If you have been to Nairobi you know how crazy people vs vehicles traffic is. At 5.00 I spot the bus and we are a minute away. It’s standing still and I hope it remains that way.

At 5.01 pm we get to the bus. I take a few minutes to regain my breath as the lady writes the card. 5.04 pm I can finally talk so I give the waiting guy(looking at me like a bug). 5.05 pm I tip the lady and we part. At 5.06 I am on my seat when I decide to look at the card. It has my name, the signatures but no stamps. It looks fake. I start to freak out.

This is the discussion in my head. “Three things could happen, I get to the border they say it’s fake and demand I get another shot or I won’t get into the country. Or after convincing them that I really got the shot, and it’s lifetime so I don’t think it’s healthy to get two on the same day, they make me pay for the stamps and I had already paid 2500 Ksh for the first one. Or all will be well. Deep in my mind, I doubt it, but I will be peaceful until we get to the border.” The actual discussion lasted for about two hours in my head and plagued my mind once a while until I crossed the border.

4. I failed to go to the loo before we left. I had a tough hour before the stop at Nakuru.

5. I failed to eat lunch or buy anything in town. We stopped at Nakuru at the most ridiculously expensive place ever. The supermarket was selling things at double price, the restaurant had weird looking food, and the red velvet cake I chose as the lesser evil is the worst cake I have ever eaten and I have tried to bake in my microwave once before using honey as a substitute for sugar.

6. I packed everything into my suitcase including my jacket which meant freezing to death and ended up buying a blanket at an overpriced rate.

All these I did before arriving. I am sure if I really think some more I could remember a few extra.

Lessons I learned

1. DO NOT Plan to obtain any important documents on the day of travel do it well in advance unless you can’t avoid it.

2. The only activity you should focus on on the day of travel is travelling. Which includes arriving at the station 30 mins before departure time.

3. Time flies when you need it to be slow.

4. Have all necessary items with you and don’t check them with the other luggage. This is common sense but I made the mistake so you shouldn’t.

5. If you have made a mistake, don’t think too much especially if it’s too late to correct it. Take a deep breath and hope for the best.

6. Finally, there is only so much you can control. BE flexible and have fun.

I am on Ugandan soil as I write this which means despite everything I made it. However, my week-long vacation has turned into a weekend vacation. I intend to make the most out of it so I will post this as is and go back to sleep. Later I will edit it when I get to a computer screen. Right now I am using my phone.

Read about my two days in Uganda here.

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