This is not what I had expected at all. There’s a relaxed and unthreatening pace to Kampala. It is clean, spacious, and green. I find the absence of the usual African social and environmental problems jarring rather than comforting, simply because I am so accustomed to them: dust, black particles from traffic pollution clogging my skin and hair, large numbers of stray dogs, needfully persistent beggars, piles of litter. Parks are full of people chatting and socialising around the lush vegetation, unlike in large parts of West Africa where parks are scorched, burnt, and empty as any vegetation that manages to grow is decimated by the endless dry season.
Just down the road from the hostel is a network of newly cobbled streets and a large mall building. I approach the x-ray equipment in front of the car park and ask the armed guard if this is also the pedestrian entrance to the mall. He doesn’t understand my English accent. Neither do many of the locals and foreigners from other nations, even though I hear them speaking English between themselves. Perhaps they rarely meet British English speakers, and less likely Northern ones.
I feel as if I have unwittingly wandered into a Trevor Noah sketch: he mocks malls in Botswana as places where families take their children to ride the country’s only escalators. The mall here has water features and escalators. Wealthy Ugandan teens take photographs of each other riding the escalators and in front of the lifts on their smartphones. The bizarre nature of the Trevor Noah sketch I remember watching on TV with Alli in our Sheffield living room coming true, combined with my extreme tiredness from over twelve hours of flying, makes me feel as if I’m watching myself on TV. I enter on of the mall’s restaurant’s in an attempt to escape, but get kicked out again (politely, but expediently) because I’m wearing shorts.
I leave the mall, eat dinner opposite my lovely hostel, and come back. It’s time for shower, and an early night. The rest of Kampala will have to wait until tomorrow.