This is Kampala

“At the heart of the country is Kampala. An urban planner’s nightmare, its fabled seven-hilled pulse spawns a sprawl of arterial slums pumping with people carving out a living. Its pot-holed roads are home to its three million inhabitants: a thrumming hive of informal trade where street vendors flog sunglasses, single cigarettes and Fong Kong clothing, and telecoms shanties scattered along the sidewalks sell sim cards under single neon light bulbs. There are no street lights. It’s left to the swarm of boda-boda motorcycles and matatu mini-bus taxis to light your way.”

Possibly one of the best descriptions of Kampala that I have ever read in this Red Bulletin preview; the bad, the ugly and the beautiful; the frenetic, the kinetic and the chaotic.

The article is on the amazing Breakdance Project Uganda. If you find yourself anywhere near a screening of the documentary Bouncing Cats, drop everything and go and see it, send me a thank you email later. It is fantastic. Featuring Crazy-Legs, K’naan and Mos Def, narrated by Common

Kampala is for hustlers: Boda Negotiation 101

1. Don’t be white

2. Rather than flagging a boda rider from the road, go to a stage where you have several options. Pick the guy who looks hungriest. (NB Don’t confuse high-as-a-kite  for the lethargy associated with stage one starvation)

3. Speak in Luganda

3 a) If you can’t speak Luganda, Speak Ugandan English, and punctuate your sentences with as many Neddas, Ssebos, and Kales as possible

3 b) Don’t have a Mzungu* accent

4. State your destination, avoid naming obviously “high-class” places, if you’re going to Serena hotel, say Crested Towers (opposite) instead.

5. When he names his price, be aware of the anchoring effect, most experienced salespeople name an absurdly high price because once you begin negotiating, anything below that seems like a reasonable bargain. (Be wary of the rider who has no idea where you are going or how to get there and is simply pulling prices out of his butt-crack.)

6. It is said that you should never pay more than 3, 000 UGsh for a boda within central Kampala. You will learn more about this in advanced Boda negotiation classes (this is in the same course unit as “how to balance telephone poles on the back of a boda”, and “Boda biology: How clean is that helmet?”).

If the rider refuses to come down to a reasonable price (perhaps because of your peach-pale skin/Kiwi accent/ destination: Kabira Country Club), simply find another. Out of 40 000 boda bodas in Kampala, surely you can find a hungrier more willing one.

For more advice on picking and choosing the right Boda, see Matooke Nation’s post on “That Boda”

*Person of European descent, one who travels or wanders without particular destination in mind.

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