Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Settling in and getting ready to move to Gulu -- March 18, 2015

Got our diesel powered, 4WD, Nissan Navara. What you call "basic transportation" in Uganda

Got our truck yesterday and had my first drivers lesson. Here we drive on the opposite side of the road as they do in England. It was a bit nerve-wracking to say the least with the way people drive here. There are no stop signs or stoplights in almost the entire city. Nobody obeys any of the traffic laws but there are many unwritten rules of the road which new drivers learn through experience. Here are some of the rules of the road.

1. Always signal when you intend to make a turn or change lanes. Other drivers are depending on you to use your signal because they may just decide to pass you on the right or on the left at any time.
2. Check your side mirrors. The road is filled with bota bota's which are small motorcycles of about 190 CC's. They swarm around you like bees. They rely on you to use your turn signal. If you signal that you are turning or moving to the left they will swarm you on the right. No matter which direction you are moving you always have to check your side mirrors on both sides because there might be a bota in your blind spot. (Co-pilot checks the left side mirror. Driver is too busy looking ahead).
3. Always travel Ugandan speed. Most of the time this means you travel at 20 kilometers (12 mph) and in the second gear. You are not going to get ahead of the traffic so just stay behind it and be patient.
4. If there is a deep ditch on your left side you cannot see it very well if at all. So when turning left always make a wide turn so your rear wheel doesn't drop in the ditch.
5. Watch out for pedestrians. There are no sidewalks so pedestrians always walk in the street. Watch out for them and try to stay as far to the right as you can in your lane so you don't hit anybody.
6. Try not to be on the road before 10 AM so you miss the rush hour madness. Try to be off the road by 7 PM which is when it gets dark. Drivers always seem to use their bright lights.
7. Watch out for speed bumps, they are everywhere.some are high enough that a small car can high center. Fortunately we have height clearance vehicles and this is not an issue. But if you go too fast over a big bump your rear passengers go flying and they don't like it very much. Speed bumps usually come in groups of three close when you clear the first one start looking for the second and third ones. And remember that speed bumps in the shade are hard to see.

8. Passenger is the co-pilot. Checks left side mirror for botas, backs you out of tight spots and stops traffic for you when needed.

9. Never leave your truck, or anything else unlocked or exposed to view of passers by!! 

Our truck once had a cover on the back

Driver sits on the right, shifts left handed, drives on the left side of the road

 The turn signals are on the right instead of the left side.
During my driving lesson I tried to flip the turn signal from
the left side which turns the windshield wipers on!!!

I am sure there are many other rules of the road that I will learn in the next few days. I just hope I can learn them without having a knock. A "knock" is what Ugandans call an accident. They never are very serious because the traffic moves so slow but no one ever wants a knock.

After my first day of driving I was awakened by a phone call. The caller told me I had a flat tire on my driver’s side rear. I threw on some clothes and went downstairs to assess the damage. Sure enough, the driver’s side rear tire was flat as a pancake. Now what to do?

As luck would have it the gardener, who lives on the grounds, was working nearby. He knew where the spare tire was located under the bed of the truck completely out of sight. He was already dirty so he didn't mind kneeling in the red dust which covers everything here, sticks to your shoes and permeates your clothes at the slightest contact. So I was grateful for that. Together we started working to put on the spare tire.

He said he doesn't have a car of his own so he wasn't totally sure of how to place the jack to get the truck up off the ground. I gave him some hints and he got the spare down onto the ground and unhooked from its mounting. He loosened the lug nuts on the tire. He jacked the truck up but it wouldn't go high enough to get the spare tire on. We found a stone about 6 inches thick and after jacking the truck back down we set the jack on the stone. This time there was no problem getting the tire high enough of f the ground to change it and in a few moments the old tire was off and the spare tire was on. I drove the truck two blocks to a gas station where they found a big puncture in my tire and fixed it within fifteen minutes. 

I tipped the gardener 3000 Ugandan shillings for his help. The gas station charged me 5000 shillings for the repair and I tip the guy 2000 shilling's more. So the total cost of tire repair was 10,000 Ugandan shillings or $3.33 American.
 This is Nelson, our day guard. He opens the gate for us when we go in an out of our apartment complex. He is a very pleasant fellow as are most all Ugandans.

Next on our agenda was getting groceries to take with us to Gulu. We are told there is only one small grocery store there and it is very hard to get many things particularly meat or dairy products. So we drove to the grocery store and loaded up with 511,800 Shillings worth of groceries. We got most of what we needed and the total cost in American dollars was $170.16. Much of this stuff will last us the full six weeks we will be up there before we can come back to Kampala to resupply.

Life is interesting here, the driving is crazy, but the people are really warm and friendly.  
This is the street we live on. It is called Commercial Street and is in a very nice neighborhood of Kampala. But like so many streets here it is not paved or only partially paved with killer speed bumps. You can't tell from this picture but we are also on a very steep hill, known to the missionaries as "Repentance Hill," because when you walk up it you repent at the top and promise never to do it again. The hill is steep enough that even in first gear my diesel powered truck has trouble making it to the top. I am guessing things get very interesting during the rainy season for those headed for the main thoroughfare at the top of the hill.

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