Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The great leap forward

I'm off today for a week in Europe doing various and sundry fun things which will be of absolutely NO interest to any of you, I'm sure (unless you want to hear about the magical dress I found), so there will be some radio silence on my end.

Before I go, though, I have to say, either I have finally gotten so used to living in Africa that I no longer notice that it isn't like the west (which is possible, my dad seemed pretty shocked when he visited me in Cape Town and I have always thought CT is as close to heaven on earth as humans have reached) OR things are genuinely modernizing at a VERY rapid rate.

Bear with me.

First, there are all the obvious signs. Big, beautiful buildings are appearing everywhere these days. The Crane Bank building in Kampala? Gorgeous. The British Council Building, also in Kampala? You'd think you were in, well, maybe not London but easily a suburb of Prague. It used to be all new buildings were these scary cement things with wires sticking out and flickering lights. Now, they're just nice.

Two, cash points are now in the strangest places. I was in Moyo the other day, which is a tiny TINY little dirt road town on the border, and they have an ATM. I mean, yeah, it is an ATM with goats in the vestibule and a generator as a power supply, but still, I feel like access to money and safe banking has got to be a sign of improving civilization, right?

Three, and this is the biggee, I couldn't figure out what was different about the streets of Kampala from the ones I remembered from before. They just seemed... modern-er, somehow. Then, this morning, it all fell in to place - they're cleaner! It used to be that every African street was awash in cheap plastic bags and bottles and other ephemera you see in a culture that has no rubbish collection and no sense of civic cleanliness. But this morning, I saw a lady in a green penny on the road sweeping. The ROAD! This is a leap forward.

And fourth, and perhaps most disturbingly, there is a huge golf course in the middle of Kampala, seriously, smack in the middle. Its been there for awhile, but I remember it before being scruffy and icky and a bit like you'd expect a golf course in the middle of Kampala to be. But now? Jesus. It is perfectly maintained, with civilized little bars set up along the green in case you want an al fresco G&T as you're taking your gay foray about the links.

Yes, of course, the majority of the city is still dirt poor and wretched and the damn Maribou Storks are still everywhere like the creepy oversized harbingers of doom that they are. I'm not saying things are suddenly great.

What I AM saying is that, before, like, 5 years before, even the nice bits of Africa weren't that nice, not compared to living in Houston or whatever. That's why the best and brightest all left and now have McMansions in Atlanta. But now, maybe, just maybe, there is a quality of life that can induce a Ugandan to actually stay in Uganda, to stanch the brain drain flow a bit.

Or, maybe, just maybe, I've been living in the boonies for too long and am impressed by things which are, in fact, no better than they were before, only I haven't been out in so long I'm forgetting what real comfort and modernity looks like. I'm almost positive it is the former, though.

1 comment:

monkey said...

technically a "links" golf course is by the sea. anyways. by the by. enjoy the european-based version of civilsation for a bit.