Originally, my trip to Kampala was supposed to take 24 hours with short layovers in Chicago, Brussels, and Kigali, Rwanda. I guess they were too short. When the plane from Austin to Chicago (the leg of the trip I wasn’t worried about) had mechanical difficulties, my whole itinerary was in disarray. After spending two hours talking to ticketing agents and a travel agency, I switched airlines and booked a flight through Dallas to London to Entebbe.
Dallas/Fort Worth is my favorite airport on the planet because I’ve never had any problems there and it has amazing restaurants. After savoring one last Tex-Mex meal, I dutifully arrived at the gate two hours early so that I could be assigned a seat. Two hours later, I watched as every group boarded the airplane and I still didn’t have a seat.
Right before the agent closed the gate, she handed me a ticket that said “10B—International Business Class.” On a Boeing 777, the business class seats recline to 180 degrees, they give you Bose noise-cancelling headphones, and the flight attendants wait on your every need. After enjoying a gourmet meal, I slept peacefully for six glorious hours.
Reinvigorated, I decided to explore London for a nine-hour layover, which was the highlight of my journey. I took the train into the city and connected to the Tube, where I got off at Picadilly Circus and walked around as a tourist, stopping at Buckingham Palace, St. James’ Park, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, and the London Eye. Although London was undergoing major deconstruction in the aftermath of the Olympics, it was a gorgeous day and I had a good first impression of a city I had never been to.
The flight to Entebbe was dismal compared to the idyllic voyage from Dallas to London, but things went smoothly. The Entebbe airport was much nicer than the one in Douala, Cameroon—it even had clean bathrooms!
Unfortunately, however, neither of my checked bags made it with me to Entebbe. They must have enjoyed London too much and decided to stay put. I hope to see them on the next flight from London on Friday, but until then, I am grateful that I packed everything irreplaceable in my carry-on bags. It will be frustrating if I have to buy all new clothes, a suit, and hiking equipment, but it’s doable. Finding new medicine, contact lenses, electronics, and a Boston Red Sox hat would be a lot more difficult.
Thirty-eight hours after I left my house in Texas, I cleared customs at Entebbe airport and met a driver from the U.S. embassy. I normally feel a rush of excitement when I get to a new place, but I felt tired, overwhelmed, and apprehensive. Worried about my luggage, I wondered what the guest house would be like and I feared for the worst. As the driver weaved us through accidents and rush-hour traffic, I considered that a car accident would be exactly what I need to top off my tumultuous voyage. Luckily, we didn’t hit anyone and I listened calmly as they played Faith Hill on the radio. Who knew they like country music in Uganda?
I was relieved when we arrived safely and I met Jakob, the owner of the house where I’m staying. He was extremely helpful and took me into the city to buy a cell phone and an Internet modem. The house has a kitchen, a living room, and a hot shower, and it’s safe and affordable. I am relieved to have found a good “home base” for the next few weeks and possibly for the rest of my stay. I achieved my goals for the day—finding shelter, a cell phone, food, and Internet (in that order)—and I am excited to visit Makerere University tomorrow to figure out what I’m doing for my project.