Rain, rain go away. Come on back another day…

Posted: September 7, 2007 in Blog

Rain holds incredible power in this part of the world. Outside Kampala, when it rains crops grow, people have drinking water. When it doesn’t, people go hungry and wells run dry. (Of course, there is also the problem of too much rain, when roads are washed out and isolated villages become entirely unreachable).

Here in Kampala, rain has a different, but still significant, effect. In a tropical climate, much of everyday business is conducted outdoors. And why not? That’s where the people are, but also outdoors is where the breeze and the sunlight is. There is no reason to sit inside a stuffy and dark building or hut.

Rain poses a significant challenge to this lifestyle, especially considering Kampala is built on seven hills and utilizes a drainage system designed by someone with a skewed sense of up and down.

Today was a perfect example. It had rained heavily overnight, so we all woke up to a wet and muddy city. On days like this, you pour yourself an extra cup of tea in the morning, thinking maybe, just maybe, those extra five minutes will make the trip into work just a little bit drier.

By the time I got to the clinic it had started raining again, though luckily it let up a bit as I was leaving. I took a boda-boda to the market near my house because I needed some fruits. Walking home in these conditions means not so much dodging the puddles, as choosing the shallowest one to walk through, while feeling the near-constant squish of the red clay mud that soon begins climbing your pant leg.

Walking through the markets, people who moments earlier had been selling watches, are now hawking umbrellas. Those who normally ply the streets with shirts for sale, suddenly have a fresh supply of rain jackets on sale. It’s as though everyone has a sealed “Plan B” envelope marked “Open Only In Case of Rain” that allows them to immediately spring to appropriate action.

As I maneuvered my way home, I heard my name. I turned to see Joseph, the boda-boda driver I use most often, pulling up beside me.

Allow me to digress a moment— Many boda-boda drivers seem to work mostly in certain sections of the city, so after a while you begin to recognize the regulars, and they begin to recognize you. As you walk past, those who recognize you will shout out somewhere they’ve driven you before in the hopes that, upon indicating your shared experience, you’ll hop on. Of the boda-boda drivers who hang around outside the Monitor offices, there is one I usually take. He’s a young guy who drives a scooter more so than a motorcycle. It’s a clunky little thing that struggles up most hills. But I get a kick out of the driver. He smiles and laughs, and wears a bright yellow ball cap that’s way too big for him.

But around home, Joseph is the guy I usually hop a ride with. I have his number in my mobile, which I ring 30 minutes ahead of any time I need a ride somewhere. He drives a true motorcycle that absolutely flies through the streets. He’s a big, strong guy who plays up his “bad” image with a black leather jacket, dark sunglasses and a constant look of indifference. Basically, he’s the guy you’d find outside a diner in the 70s, leaning against his bike with a pack of smokes rolled up in his sleeve.

“This is no weather to be walking around in, my man,” Joseph said as he pulled up alongside me. He had a point, but I was fresh out of cash and told him as much while mentioning that my wallet had been stolen.

“No worries, man, hop on. How long till you get your cards back?” he asked.

Probably sometime the week after next, I said.

“No problem. Any time you need a ride, just call me. If I’ve got fuel in my tank, we’ll go. You pay me later.”


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