I woke up early today to catch the bus back to Kampala. I hopped on a boda (a motorbike taxi) outside my hotel and headed to the bus terminal in Lira. Bodas are everywhere in Uganda – a reasonably inexpensive mode of public transport. There are; however, a couple of challenges. Firstly, if you have more than a small bag, it’s terribly awkward. I had a mid-size back pack and bag of snacks. Secondly, in Lira (and likely other remote parts of the country), women ride side saddle. Picture me and my backpack sitting side saddle on a motorcycle flying through Lira. Lucky for me, it was before 7am and traffic was relatively light.
Got to my 7:30 am bus in plenty of time (see Exhibit 1). What I should have accounted for is the fact that schedules are a mere suggestion in Uganda. 7:30 am really means before 10 am. Luckily we left just after 8:15am.
My seat mate, Edwin, was a pleasant young fellow on his way back to Kampala for school. We chatted and he embarrassed me with his knowledge of Canadian geography. My Ugandan geographic knowledge was not nearly as vast.
Public transit buses (and perhaps large transport trucks) have a series of horn sounds that have specific meanings. A small tap means “hey, I’m here”. A double tap means “hey, I’m going to pass you.” And the drunk goose horn means “hey, I’m coming up hard on your ass, so move the f&ck over, cuz I’m not stopping.”
As is usually the case, we had a series of near misses with goats, pigs, a couple of cattle. My heart was in my throat for most of the trip. After a short pit stop we were back on our way.
And things got serious quickly. We passed an “accident ahead” sign. This time, there was an accident. A terrible accident where it looked like a boda had been hit by a bus. Two kids and one woman were killed. It was scary and heartbreaking and really disturbing. There isn’t much sanitizing reality here. In life and certainly not in an untimely and premature death. It’s all very raw here.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. Thank God. My heart couldn’t handle much more today. Back at the hotel in Kampala, I was reunited with my bag. While a part of me was thrilled to have comforts from home (including my underwear!), today’s events were a stark reminder that I was too worried about shit that just doesn’t really matter. Sure, things like a choice of pants or t-shirts make life easy and comfortable, but ultimately are meaningless.
I celebrated life this afternoon by the pool with a cool breeze blowing and a cold beer. Life is good.