the moment the plane touched down in entebbe the windows fogged over.
kenya, you’re great. wonderful, even. but, i have to confess, uganda is the one who has stolen my heart. you know its love when the water content of the air is so high that airplane windows immediately fog–immediately–and you smile.
this time, disembarking the airplane, the air smelled right. not just good or familiar, but right.
following the neanderthal-looking painted footprints from the tarmac to the immigration hall as familiar as if i’d last passed this way yesterday.
upon entering the arrivals hall everyone’s hands were squirted with hand sanitizer by a woman wearing scrubs, surgical mask and plastic apron (like perhaps a butcher would wear?). then we are handed a card by a man in uniform who is not wearing gloves. counterproductive. classic.
these cards were not our declaration cards (we already had those from the airplane) but the ebola screening cards. the majority of them weren’t copied well, so the last question is sort of cut off–its the big one, too–“have you been to a country that has had ebola” and, i assume, you’re supposed to circle “yes” or “no” but that part has slanted off the page. so as to leave no question i wrote NO as largely as i could in the space below the last question and circled it. three times.
once your card is complete you have to hand it to either the woman in full surgical garb or the fellow still not wearing gloves. (i’m not sure if these were the same two people who hand out the hand sanitizer and cards in the first place…i got distracted.)
an important aside–lines in uganda. these are a unique experience in this beautiful country. theyh do not function like lines in america, or even a good french “i’m going to cut in front of you” line. these are more of a mob of people jockeying for position. think less orderly line and more black friday mob scene with fewer televisions and xboxes. and about 50% less intense. (most of the time)
so you take your card to the people, in aforementioned line, and they are checking to be sure everyone filled in every blank. most people didn’t notice the question cut off at the bottom-rather than fill it out elsewhere said finishers of form, and people filling out the entire form, crowded near the front of the queue. sigh.
i fell in line behind a very well dressed and very scowly british lady who was elbowing her way to the front of the line. when in rome… i followed her right up to the front and handed my card in to the woman checking cards–she had to pull my arm so i could pass between two men trying to fill out their entire forms at the front of the line. her gloves felt damp. yick.
and then, in a classic showing of uganda bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake–the switch-back line built for…oh, say, 200 people…now has about 50 moving through it. it is a lot of switch backs in a small space. i was already deeply amused at “we’ll just leave it and make them walk through all of this quickly and maybe get dizzy” leadership at play here. but then literally giggled when the baganda man in front of me (who was speaking luganda over me to the fellow behind me) drug his rolling bag over every. single. stand. i stopped counting at 20. perfection.
at this screening there were four ladies clad in surgical wear, all the same as the original woman i mentioned–like a flock of dr. who characters, or strangely out of place butchers. when it was my turn, the lady handling my line gook my card and looked it over, looked over my declaration form and then took my temperature by holding some wacky thermometer just in front of my forehead. it didn’t touch me, just hovered.
she stamped my paper and i was free to go to the visa line. no ebola here, check.
fast visa secured and i was out the door and securing a private taxi in two minutes flat. we negotiated the price on the walk to the car–the exact same walk i first made when coming to uganda and meeting father joe–and he complimented my uganda english. everything is circular. everything.
the ride was smooth (as smooth as that road is regarding both traffic and potholes)–the music was east africa pop, the breeze perfect. webele. webele. webele.
i’ve never really minded getting stuck in the [traffic] jam or taking long journeys in uganda (or east africa in general, really). and while riding along this evening i pondered this and concluded that these times of not having to make conversation and being in transit by vehicle are one of my best daydreaming/pondering places.
the airplane is okay, but not great. but in a vehicle? it almost rivals walking. except in a vehicle i don’t have to consider anything–not the direction to go, or if i’m going to step in a hole. just sit, relax and let the driver do his thing, and ponder. this particular drive conjured some really lovely day dreams.
and then we reached the meeting point where A of A&A was meeting me–i paid the taxi driver, hugged mr. A and we were off to home.