Sunday, August 12, 2012

A walk around our neighbourhood: Part 2, towards Kyambogo

Another quiet Sunday and time for another quiet walk.We'll leave the hustle and bustle of Ntinda behind us this time and walk down towards the green fields and trees of Kyambogo University.

With our flat behind us, we follow our usual path.

At the T junction, we look to the left opposite the charcoal-sellers to see if there's any traffic....

...and turn right towards the main road. Here we take a left turn, down the hill and see the ground rise gently up again. Our journey to work normally takes us down this road, which then bends right at the top of the rise. However, we are going on foot so we are going to turn off the 'main' road in a few yards and do the circuit in an anti-clockwise direction.

As we walk down the hill, we can see a strange but very common signpost standing in the field to our left: This land is not for sale.

So much land grabbing goes on in Uganda that signs like this dot any spare patch of land, and even buildings, to deter the squatters. Coming up the road in front of us is a man pushing a wheelbarrow. He's just come from the rubbish tip you can see smoking directly ahead.

As we pass him, we can see the place where boda boda drivers wash their bikes, using water from the stream below. Their buckets, like those all over Uganda, are bright yellow plastic recycled cooking oil containers, cut off below the screw top.

Beyond the vehicle washing area, someone has taken over a patch of land for a nursery. Decorative plants and shrubs stand in rows by the side of the road. Clearly, there was no sign warning off squatters here. These small nurseries are one of the most common sights on the roadsides in Kampala. Wherever people can find a spare patch of ground, they grow things, sometimes sweetcorn, but often decorative plants to be bought by the new middle-class for the landscaped gardens of their grand new suburban villas.

And now we are at the rubbish dump.

The tip smokes night and day. During the day, it is careful tended by people - including children, even on schooldays - who go through each plastic bag or heap of rubbish, saving what is worth selling and burning the rest. The smell of burning plastic is one of the most distinctive smells of Kampala. A constant white haze hangs over the city, from a combination of burning rubbish and charcoal cooking stoves. No, it's not environmentally friendly, but neither is the pollution sweeping over from the west and causing the climate change and crop failure in this rich agricultural land.

The adults are not at the dump just now as it's a Sunday, but a few children are searching the rubbish, looking for plastic bottles. They have large  canvas 'rice' sacks slung over their shoulders. You see women and children doing this all over the city, sometimes men as well, though the latter must really be on their uppers to be working as scavengers.

Now we're leaving the tip behind. We've just turned off the main road onto a track which runs through fields round the back of the rubbish tip. It's a footpath, though one used also by bodas (motorcycle taxis) and even some cars whose drivers ignore the impact on their suspension of the constant bouncing over ruts.

The lane runs through fields and I really like it. It's quiet and tranquil and for a few minutes, you can imagine you're in the countryside.

However, before we go any further, we'll have a look at the clay works on the corner. Again, this is a typical sight. Wherever there is a patch of earth which is not being used to grow plants or crops, it is used to make bricks, pots or earthenware cooking stoves. The brickmakers dig up the earth, mix it with water, mould it into bricks and either leave them out in the sun to dry or fire them by burning piles of wood underneath. The land may not even be their own, or they may dig out the earth around their house, leaving it perched high and dry. That is what the family across the road has done, digging up the ground between their mud-brick house and the road. The piles of bricks are now drying, covered with banana leaves to prevent them from drying out too much.

Here, however, on the corner of my favourite path we have a family of bona fide potters, who make enormous numbers of traditional earthenware stoves. Such stoves are used for cooking by most Ugandan families, using charcoal as fuel.

Each member of the group is responsible for a different stage in the process.

Leaving the potters behind us, we continue along the footpath, jumping out of the way of the passing traffic.

From the path, we can look back over the way we came, the attractive red-rooved suburb of Ntinda spread out before us.

In the foreground, there are various crops: mounds of 'Irish' and sweet potatoes and four-foot high cassava. The path is punctuated by termite mounts taller than we are, like bright red Disney castles.

We pick our way around the patches of sticky mud.

Soon we come to a field of cassava and matoke (green banana). The farmer and her relative are working away, with the help of her young son who wields a hoe almost bigger than he is.

On the right, there are more bricks drying in the sun, under their banana leaf and canvas coats, and goats grazing in the field beyond.

There ahead of us we can see a compound, home to several families with numerous children. It's probably been there for years, long before the middle-class suburb grew up around it.

The houses are of traditional construction: mud brick, probably the same kinds of bricks as we've seen drying in the sun.The roofs are made of corrugated iron, weighted down by whatever comes to hand.

This family also makes a living by making bricks and moulding earthenware stoves for sale.

However, now we've reached the end of our path. The university is ahead of us: a beautiful spacious campus with areas of grass where, on weekdays, the students do their studying or hold meetings. We've even seen cows grazing in between the buildings. Kyambogo is a respected university, the specialist centre for education studies and research in Uganda. Its academics set the examinations sat by students in primary teachers' colleges across the country.
The buildings themselves are not much to write home about, being mostly 1970s slabs or what look like long low pre-fabs. However, the Faculty of Special Needs Education and Rehabilitation (on the right) is an exception, its attractive red roofs looking quite different from anything else on the campus.

The campus has a number of places of worship, but I particularly like the mosque.

The university's broad tree-lined avenues are wonderful for ambling along. There's no telling what or whom you'll meet: lines of women and children collecting water from the university standpipe, pre-schoolers gambolling around, goats tethered at the verge.

Last time I walked through, I came across a mixed cricket match. A young lad was in charge of marking up the scores. Beyond him you can see the terrible round tin huts lived in by policemen's families.

Near the end of the avenue, next to the usual smoking garbage heap, is a strange construction: what seem to be rows of fences with flags and other decorations made of old plastic bags. Attached to the fences are a number of 'hangings' embroidered with banana fibre and other materials, all with a sporting theme. They appeared about eighteen months ago but were recently replaced to celebrate various fixtures, like the Olympic Games and African Cup of Nations. The university has given this little patch of land to one of their former members of staff, a lecturer in the art and design department to decorate as he wishes.

The spelling is particularly idiosyncratic.

However, it's time to make our way home now. Soon we're at the edge of the campus, where the lecturers live with their families, hens, goats and maize gardens.

Once through the gates, we pass the entrance to the Kabaka's house on our right - nothing worth photographing there - then Kyambogo government-aided primary school on our left, whose children we pass every day on our way to and from work.

On the right again, is our local paper recycling centre - a private enterprise. People go out and collect waste paper from the garbage left outside people's house and on the tips. The paper is washed and hung out to dry. I'm not sure what happens to it next. I'm just glad someone can make some money from other people's rubbish.

We turn to the left onto the home straight. Signs to property agents and embassies, more further education campuses, including the Public Health Nurses' College.

Past the banana groves we go.

And here's our street at last.

Our pleasant Sunday afternoon walk is over.

1 comment:

  1. Have enjoyed both walks with you. I had no idea of where you live and am surprised that it is so full of variety. Not sure what I expected of middle class Kampala environments.