Sir Winston Churchill famously said of Uganda:
“Uganda is the Pearl of Africa.”
I wonder what he would make of how often the 21st-century Ugandan tourist industry quotes his words? At Entebbe airport, visitors are invited to fill in immigration forms proudly stating “welcome to the Pearl of Africa.”
But another more general quote of his, that I came across by accident last week, that resonates even more with me in Uganda.
Despite the wall-to-wall Technicolor blue skies, endless radiant green fields and plantations, the vibrant red earth and even more vibrant Ugandan people, working in a developing country can really test your patience:
Power that ‘chucks’ (computers flick on and off at work and every other evening we’re without electricity),
slow Internet with frequent service interruptions (which stupid ba#t$rd has dropped an anchor on the cable under the Indian Ocean disconnecting the WHOLE of East Africa this time?)
bureaucracy that makes you want to bang head against the wall (or bang someone’s head anyway),
37° in the middle of the day and you’re stuck to the plastic seat of your car in another unnecessary traffic jam,
swerving to avoid the crater-like potholes that reappear after every heavy rainfall, mosquitoes,
workers who are too busy reading the daily paper from cover to cover to notice that you’re waiting to be served,
lack of recycling facilities (man, that irks me),
not a Prêt a Manager or M&S Food in sight (!)
mobile phone networks that charge you for your SMS but don’t deliver them,
blood-boiling evangelicals who blast me with bullshit as I’m stuck in rush-hour traffic,
corrupt traffic police who are too busy pocketing money for school fees to help us get to work on time,
taxi drivers who double their fare just because you’re a Muzungu,
people at conferences and training programs insisting on per diems (attendance fees).
I could go on …
Walking the streets of London’s Camden Town last week, the words of a postcard in a shop jumped out at me:
Sir, you saved me. I’m more indebted to you than you could possibly imagine.