Jinja Trip – Busoga College Visitation
After my first weekend in Iganga, Maureen asked if I wanted to head to neighboring Jinja to see the city and visit Joel at his boarding school. I jumped on the offer to join primarily to shake things up in my daily routine but also to get a glimpse of Jinja, which I had been hearing about from current volunteers since arriving in country. After class ended early on Saturday, Maureen met me at school and we headed to the taxi stand to hitch a 45 minute ride out to Jinja.
In Uganda, a taxi is a public transit carrier van, called a mutatu, that shuttles people all around the country with usually 12+ people filling the van. There are no scheduled departures for taxis between major cities, but the constant flow of vehicles creeping by taxi stages with the conductor hollering the destination out the open door while simultaneously ushering on and off passengers creates a near on demand service.
A taxi stage is a stretch of road along side the main transit roads where taxis stop to drop off and pick up customers. In larger cities there are taxi stands located in different areas for different departure destinations, whereas between destinations there are marked areas along the road where people commonly get on and off the vehicles.
Each taxi is operated by two individuals, a driver and a conductor. The driver is the core operational component of the service and is responsible for safely or quickly driving passengers from their pick up stand to their drop off stand along the taxi route. On the other hand, the conductor is the finance, sales, marketing, and customer service team all in one. He is responsible for collecting payment, fielding complaints, hollering the destination out the door to attract more business, and ushering clients on and off as the taxi stops at its many stages along its route.
Each ride in a taxi is a new adventure. You never know what a customer is bringing with them, nor how many clients the conductor will boldly try to squeeze into the vehicle. For this reason, my sister, Maureen, did not want to be squished four across in a back row so we jumped into the front of an empty taxi and waited for the van to slowly fill before taking off.
Upon arriving in Jinja, my oldest brother Joseph, my host my father’s eldest, picked me and Maureen up in his car to take us to the school for the visitation. Joseph is a banker in Jinja and has been working with Stanbic Bank since his graduation from University many moons ago. Since Joseph was responsible for transportation to and from the visitation, Maureen and I lugged with us in the taxi the massive lunch she had prepared. I’m sure the smell of the Ugandan styled fried rice and beef wafted back in the taxi as we blazed from Iganga to Jinja.
Joseph and Maureen gave me a quick drive through town and pointed landmarks and places to visit before we pulled off the main road. Once off the main road we began winding up one of the hills surrounding Jinja’s location in the valley. While climbing the hill in the car I became informed that we were heading all the way to the top where Busoga College Mwiri, a boarding school once created for the royalty in the Busoga region, is located. My fun fact for the day was Busoga College Mwiri is the school where Obote, Uganda’s second and sixth president, went to secondary school. We arrived atop the hill to a presidential campus overlooking the valley, housing over 1,000 students with dormitories, libraries, laboratories, congregation halls, classrooms, soccer and cricket fields as well as an outdoor basketball court.
Joel picked out a spot for us to eat lunch behind the library over looking Lake Victoria. Rather than just sit back and enjoy the view, Maureen also urged us to take the opportunity for a photo-shoot, which resulted in a plethora of family photos. After our meal, we left Joel to have some space and use the rest of his leisure day with his friends and we drove back down into town. Joseph brought me to a few of his favorite spots and his place before driving us back to the taxi stand home. Upon arriving at the taxi stand, we waited to get into the first taxi we could find with the two fronts seats open.
Since we got home late from Jinja the night before, I got a hall pass on 7am church the following morning. I was grateful for the pass on church and went to bed thrilled about going to sleep without setting an alarm. Although I did not set an alarm, Maureen woke me up at 8am so I could get an early start on my laundry that morning. When I groggily left my room she explained that its best to get up early so that I have more time to rest throughout the day, which is a concept I’m still wrapping my head around.
Laundry was the only item on the menu for my chores that day. Derrick helped me gather the water, buckets, and soap while I finished my morning tea. There seemed to be much anxiety building because I was not moving quite fast enough, which I can’t argue as untrue, but in my head I was thinking I had 10 hours of daylight to get the job done. As I organized my laundry into piles to prepare the hand washing saga, Derrick quickly picked up on the fact that I was yet to grow accustomed to this method of washing. He quickly jumped in to direct and help with the laundry out of fear it would take me all day, which I told him was fine since it would be downtime for me to think and relax. After flashing me a quick grin and chuckle, I was shown that laundry is not a time to relax, but a time to work hard and fast to get the job done. Sure enough, my technique was sloppy and even with his help the pace was lagging. At times, I’d hold up a shirt, smell the soap, and call it good enough but he would look at me and laugh as he grabbed the shirt and showed me what it really means to be clean.
The biggest lesson from my first weekend with the Masanjas was that chores are not to be taken lightly. They are tasks that must be thorough and swift. Although I may have wanted to take my time and listen to a podcast as I spent they day slowly fumbling around outside, people are always watching and it is important that others do not see you and perceive you as incompetent or lazy. In a save face culture public perception is everything. Although I quickly learned the importance of my posture and mindset behind the chore, I washed less than half of my clothing myself. With the training received the first week, I have been slowly mastering the skill and can be seen toiling away, showing my effort by sweating more each saga since each subsequent week of laundry has been a closely monitored experience. The scabs on my hands have also turned to callouses, allowing me to wring out a pair of jeans with ease.