The rest of our Friday in Kampala was extremely pleasant and full of spending money. We took bodabodas, the motorcycle/motor scooter taxis, everywhere that was far enough to justify it. For the equivalent of a dollar or less, you hop on the back of the man’s bike and tuck in your knees and elbows as he squeezes between cars and goes the wrong way on one-way streets and all sorts of other perfectly executed maneuvers. Our first ride was to the big grocery store, where we got all sorts of treats including Maryland brand chocolate chip cookies, which were a favorite of mine in TZ. We spent the rest of the afternoon on souvenir shopping. Even though I just got here I got a head start since I don’t want to do a repeat of my last week in Tanzania spent in frenzy at the arts market. When we got back to the hotel I bought 6 meters of kitenge fabric to have made into a dress, a bath towel, an alarm clock and a copy of D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, all in the space of about 9 minutes.
Dinner was Indian food and my first Ugandan beer. We met up with Gosha and Frerich (I’m butchering their names; when they get back to camp I’ll get the proper spelling), a married couple who actually met at the research station. (Just tonight at the canteen some of the researchers were reminiscing about how Frerich brought an alto sax with him and used to play the same fusion jazz riffs every evening, to the great fury of some chimp researcher doing night work who would yell at him from the woods to shut the fuck up already.) Anyway, they’re both really lovely and I’m looking forward to hanging out with them this summer. They actually live in the house next to the one that Amy and I are moving into tomorrow.
After dinner we hit nightlife jackpot. At first we were going to get drinks at this ritzy place called Mateo’s, but the drinks were more expensive than we liked so we headed over to The Slow Boat. We walk in and a young woman is up onstage booty-dancing like it’s her job…which it turned out it was: she was part of the Fabulous Squad, which pretty much put on a variety show. After homegirl were a few men getting down to local dance music, including one dude who commenced his act by ripping off his shirt and then moved his hips with more precision than anyone I have ever seen. It was terrifying.
The next act, a skit with lip-synch numbers, was more of a slow boil. Only a few lines were in English: “Daughter, go home to your bed and wait and I will come to you,” “It will land in your mouth.” Then, pay dirt with the arrival of the father’s new wife-to-be, played by a very tall, broad-shouldered man with a big ol’ fake tabletop booty and blackface makeup. Ridiculousness ensued as the father sicced his new lady on his wife—all kinds of high kicks showing off his red panties (over black spandex shorts) and somersaults and ninja poses.
More karaoke dancing after the skit—two men came out to perform a ballad. They’re onstage, singing…and then they’re walking off the stage…and then, oh shit, they’re pulling Amy and me up to dance with them. I thought it would just be a few minutes of lalala, but no, we stayed and danced for the whole song. And then two ladies came out and brought Joel and Frerich up for some serious boogying. We have pictures AND video…some day.
Saturday, we drove up to camp. It’s gorgeous. There’s even a toilet box on one of the choos (rhymes with “those”). Until Amy and I move into our own place we are crashing the peace formerly enjoyed by a nice British guy named Graham who’s doing stuff with a colobus community on the edge of the forest. We basically just killed time until dinner, which we had at the home of the Chapmans, an academic couple from McGill who used to be at UF who have had a project here for 18 years now. They have a specialty called “cheesy pasta” that was fabulous—along with local potato-bananas and peas and rice and all that.
Hit up the canteen after that for beers. There must have been at least 10 other researchers there. They pretty much all knew each other, whether for weeks or years, which was intimidating on top of them being super academic and bright and, I don’t know, grown up. I definitely feel I’m in a little over my head. Just talking with Joel, the PhD student who did the last 2 summers at Kibale and is here now to help Amy and me get set up, about everything that I will need to do to make this project happen….ah!!!
Tomorrow is the first official workday!