I returned from the relative cold of Amsterdam to find Kampala gripped by an unpleasant heat wave. I guess it didn’t rain while I was gone, and without me to water them my poor plants have suffered. To think I was only gone four days!
The warm weather, especially after that little taste of cold, has switched my mind into a summer’s-almost-here mode, as if I were twelve years old and it was the last week of May and I couldn’t wait to get out of school. I was driving around town yesterday with my iPod on shuffle, and it seems my iPod agreed, because the playlist was all summer music, offering up reggae, some salsa, classic R&B, and a bunch of uptempo pop hits (a little Leonard Cohen snuck in, too, but it worked.) If Lake Victoria wasn’t infested with hippos and parasites, I would have made a beeline for the beach.
Apparently I agreed some time ago to spend New Year in Jinja, a charming little city mainly known for occupying the spot where the Nile flows out from Lake Victoria, and also for being the home of Nile Breweries, Uganda’s most ubiquitous beer. It has a compact colonial center and an improbably robust restaurant scene, and unlike Kampala the street parking is plentiful.
However, I just came back from a trip, and only just now finished unpacking, so I am a bit annoyed at my October self for booking this room and telling everyone else I would go along. Fortunately, though, the road to Jinja is pleasant enough. Traffic permitting, it takes about two hours, and along the way you pass a forest reserve, an always-entertaining highway market, some lush farmland and tea estates, and a number of big-ish towns ranging from the sweaty to the almost-lovely.
(Once, in the workaday town of Mukono, I was stuck in traffic in front of a music store and saw in the display window an electric guitar, and thought to myself, “Somebody should tell that guitar’s story. I bet it’s a good one. What kid in Mukono is saving up right now to buy a polished black electric guitar, and what fate lies in store for the two of them?” Alas, that is not a story I can tell, but somebody should.)
The last time I was in Jinja—for New Year’s last year—my phone slipped out of my pocket and fell into the Nile, which was kind of cool (who loses an iPhone in the Nile?) but also a bit tragic, and since the phone was my only camera it took all my pictures with it. This time no such drama is anticipated. I have a proper camera and it doesn’t even fit in my pocket. In Jinja town, though, the only pictures I took were of the coffee shop I had breakfast at. Sorry.
I’m staying further up the river, at a fancy hotel that lets people camp on their lawn for cheap, and after I set up my tent I did manage to take a few pictures of the river, which I am a bit more proud to share.
And so I settle in on a bluff overlooking the lower reaches of the Victoria Nile to ring in 2018. Although the newspapers of 2017 provided quite a bit of heartburn, I must admit that all in all this was a fairly good year for me. Thank you all for letting me share at least a bit of it with you.