Tugende! (“We go!”)

My first steps in Lake Victoria, on a daytrip to Entebbe

What is that Jhumpa Lahiri said about being an immigrant – something about ploughing or casting roots into unaccustomed earth? Except I don’t really know how hard to dig in order to plant myself here.  No idea.  Today I’m exhausted from running again, free of cat-calls and hecklers.  But unless it was because of the tight leggings, I don’t know WHY I was given such a hard time.  As it turns out, a LOT of people run in Kololo.  Not surprising, it’s a wealthy part of town, running for exercise is very much a people-with-disposable-income thing.  But I’m pretty sure I saw the North Korean Ambassador/High Commissioner and his driver heading out for a drive.  They seemed mighty stern-looking to me!

Anyways, one of the highlights of last week involved a street vendor lunging at my face with a paintbrush to put some Uganda spirit on me for the FOOTBALL GAME.  EEK.  No thank you sir, flag colors on my arms just enough spirit for me! That, and the paint didn’t wash off, even 5 days later, so I’m pretty relieved I managed the stop the guy before he got permanent stripes on my cheek.

Uganda fans packing the stadium…and sitting as close as possible, with legs hanging off the ledge.

We goooo, we goo, Uganda Cranes, we go! Le Sigh.  The best thing about African football (soccer) is–I can’t even decide where to start.  The street market that sprung up, circling the stadium, selling fruit, jerseys, noise-makers, facepaint, roasted corn and peanuts, soda, tiny flasks of liquor… or the noise of the vuvuzuelas (remember those from the last World Cup?), heard over the din of the excited crowd, all the way to the main road (except when one guy pointed his noisemaker in my friend’s ear and emptied his lungs into it) or the sea of red and yellow and black streaming towards the stadium or or or…

The worst part is easily that the Ugandan team just isn’t very good.  Or maybe they just had an off day. But when I went to watch them play Senegal in the World Cup Qualifiers, the only goal Uganda managed to get right was during a penalty kick where there wasn’t that barrier of people in front.  In fact, while Senegal played offense, Uganda kept falling down in the hopes of getting more penalty kicks.  REALLY GUYS? SO FRUSTRATING.

Man selling roasted coffee beans, to munch on during the game.

Clearly, my knowledge of proper football terminology is lacking but that didn’t stop me from jumping up and down, shouting and cheering like a real football hooligan while munching on roasted corn and g-nuts.  I may or may not have screamed in disappointment when Senegal scored.  The match finally ended in a draw.  After two hours of screaming at Uganda to come-on-come-on-go-go-go, the entire stadium erupted in howls of excitement.  The entire stadium was blowing those stupid “vuvuzuelas” singing, dancing, throwing empty bottles at the field and each other… several men, who had spent most of the match dancing with their shirts off, ran down to the front of the stadium and threw themselves on the metal scaffolding that held up the lights, gyrated against the poles, and then climbed even higher.  Throughout the match, several fans decided that wearing shirts was just a little more than they could handle, and ripped them off in excitement.

Long walk back to the main road, to catch a taxi back to town.

All in all, it wasn’t the best played game of football I’ve watched BUT hey, Uganda takes its football seriously.  And that MORE than made up for it.  I left the stadium giddy, which powered me through the long walk back to the main road where we were packed into a “taxi” (matatu, those minibuses) back to town, where the partying continued at roadside bars and through the drunk men hanging on the back of the taxis and grinding on the rear windshield.

Tickets weren’t terribly expensive either! So plan for more matches? Check.



  1. It sounds like you got to go out and explore more 🙂 Love the pic in Lake Victoria!

  2. Love the photos Ruch! It looks like a lot of fun at the game- it sounds absolutely awesome and exciting. I am curious: I know there’s a decent number of Indians in Uganda so do people think you’re a foreigner or a local? xo hope you have wonderful travels and work in Uganda! miss you!

    1. Miss you too Akhila! People generally think I’m a foreigner, but they think I’m Chinese, not Indian. ?!?! I just went to a land platform meeting — Akhila, some of the NGOs here are doing such incredible work in the post-conflict region! I thought of you and the countless things I’ve read on your blogs about sustainable aid and organisation. Just as a thought, for further exploration, what role does mediation and alternative dispute resolution play the NGOs you’ve worked with (in regards to access to justice)? The platform I went to focused on mediation to resolve land disputes, but I’ve been thinking more and more about how ADR can improve access to justice, esp. w/ vulnerable populations, in all contexts…

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