This is a guest post by my partner Anya Whiteside who is blogging about our time in Uganda over at ‘Anya’s Blog‘.
Ten days ago we saw the house that FENU have found for us to live in. If you go down Kabalagala, famous in all of East Africa for its many little bars and clubs that play reggae till the early hours you turn onto the busy Ggaba road. Here minibuses, boda bodas (motorbike taxis), bikes and people weave their way in and out while stalls of avacado, mango and pineapple vie for space with shops overflowing with plastic buckets, matresses and brooms.
All the way along the Ggaba road are small side streets leading off, some tarmac, some dirt. If you turn up one of these side streets you weave your way through a mish-mash of housing. Gardened and gated houses intermingled with simple wooden shacks, and this variety is one of the things I like most about this part of Kampala.
Our house is off one of these quiet side streets. It is a single story house next to a little store that sells sweets and phone credit to anyone who happens to be pondering past. There is a patch of ground outside where are neighbours-to-be sit shelling peas while their kids run about playing. On the other side are smarter houses, painted pink with a larger, gated courtyard.
As soon as we see the house we like it. It’s has several rooms, including a spare bedroom for guests and a little courtyard where we hope to fit a table and chair and maybe some pots of basil. There has even been talk of a chicken, though we are yet to find out whether letting it out onto the grass outside would lead it into a neighbours pot, and we’re not sure we want to be labbled as the crazy muzungus with the chicken on the lead!
The only problem with our exciting new house is that it’s not finished. The bathroom is in disrepair, it has no floor and the kitchen is falling apart. ‘Do not worry, it will be finished mangu mangu (quickly)’ beams the builder when we first look round. I discuss the situation with FENU and we agree the house is worth waiting for, and that every day I will make the short journey from the office to see how it’s getting on.
So every day I go. As I leave the office my colleagues wish me luck. I meet my new friend the builder who explains why that day the house is hardly further along than the day before. ‘The plumber didn’t come’, ‘there was a problem with the carpenter’. ‘we had a problem with a leaking pipe’ he says. ‘But’ he adds with a huge grin ‘do not worry, it will definitelybe finished tomorrow’. When I walk back to the office my colleagues ask how the house is coming along, ‘mpola, mpola (slowly)’ I answer, to which there are peals of laughter.
On Friday, however, we saw marked improvements – not only had a toilet been installed, but it also flushed, as the builder demonstrated with pride. So to celebrate Steve and I went to buy furniture with the wonderful driver at FENU called Hudson. Hudson took us to a multitude of places – the supermarket for the fridge, the backstreets for the pans and the wonderful hand-made street furniture market for our cane sofa. We arrived back at FENU exhausted and with furniture tied to every possible part of the vehicle. Our furniture is now occuppying the meeting room at FENU, but that shouldn’t be a problem as our house will definitely be ready when I visit it tomorrow!
When we arrived the builder proudly showed us his handywork. He had inexplicably painted the kitchen and bathroom bright orange! We think we’ve convinced him we are happy for him to leave the sitting room and bedrooms cream but it remains to be seen….