What I miss most about East Africa

The kronur may be cheaper than it once was, but I still miss the prices of things. A pound for a hostel bed, a euro for a bus ride, a dollar for a beer, and 25 cents for a coffee. Its nice when the coffee is fresh, local coffee, but more often than not it was instant Nescafe. You have to order your beer warm or cold, and though they cost the same, only the tourists or elitists order it cold (though it warms up very quickly) since locals are used to drinking beer warm.

I miss the feeling of the equatorial sun heating my back and browning my face, accompanied by the endless sweat dripping from my forehead. Then the dust and grime in all public places collects on your sticky skin and every shower I take ends up in brown water running down me and forming a muddy pool at my feet.I miss the humidity of the air, keeping your skin moisturized and the nights warm.

I miss the gratitude I felt for shade, to get out of the sun for some relief from the heat, and the lottery I felt I won when sitting on an all-day bus on the non-sunny side. None of the buses were air conditioned, so I miss the bus routes, stopping every 500 metres, that speed up to go again, creating the most wonderful breeze through the open windows. I miss the risk factor of every bus, taking the one which looked least likely to break down, and checking out the driver who would soon have your life in his hands.

I miss the coziness of the buses, filled with twice as many passengers as they’re supposed to be, and each passenger carrying a bucket of flour, a jug of water, a live chicken, or an infant child on their lap. The convenience of never having to get off the bus to shop for whatever you needed was a lazy luxury – bottles of water, grilled corn, meat brochettes, gigantic avocados, the redest tomatoes or bananas of all sizes would show up at your window every time the bus stopped, for sale for a few cents.

The frequent lightning storms made the weather exciting; I miss the sight of electrifying blue lightning bolts with a hundred arms visible from miles away in the midday grey or lighting up the dead of night, and the awe of thunder so loud it shakes the building you’re in.

I strangely miss the bugs – the constant buzzing and cooing of hundreds of insects, mostly at night. The sign of life everywhere you look, even the cockroaches in the filthiest of corners. Little flies often shared my beer, drowning in glory in the foamy, alcoholic bubbles. One hotel room I went to look at in Mbale seemed to be ok from the outside, and the hallway leading up the room was newly painted, but upon opening the door to my room, a massive spider scurried past. The woman showing me the room put her slipper on it nonchalantly, and when a cockroach scurried past she did nothing, since he would be my roommate. Two more cockroaches inhabiting the bathroom made me decide I’d rather not intrude so they kept the room to themselves.

I miss the taste of street food, the little bits of grit you feel between your teeth as you chew gristly meat and under-ripe corn on the cob. Watching the transformation of fresh planted veggies into a delicious vegetarian dishes, and silky roosters slit, plucked and cooked into tough, chewy chicken. However, I have to admit I don’t miss the smell of freshly plucked chickens, or the chicken poo they sit in waiting, tied up, for their death sentence.

I do miss the general assortment of smells, the strength of stenches that ensure you your sense of smell is working just fine, and make you appreciate when you’re not surrounded by the stink of urine or the smoggy traffic exhaust that leaves you gasping for oxygen.

I loved how the tourism industry was East Africa’s Hollywood – everyone who made a job with tourists would presumably become rich, and meet foreign friends and possible spouses who could take them to their country to visit or work, even live forever. The kindness of people may have been because of my light skin or the type of passport I held, but I miss the people, their bright smiles and friendly hello’s, and how everyone calls me ‘sister.’ I miss the moral inclinations towards Christianity, everyone spreading Gods word for his love to shower those with nothing.

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One thought on “What I miss most about East Africa

  1. sweet. normally a traveller from the ‘west’ would lament on how they suffered through everything you embraced. That your reflections express gratitude for the multi-sensory Truth of the miracle of it all is both gracious and humbling. I am really touched by your generosity of spirit and consciousness.

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