I arrived back in Uganda late Sunday, and have spent the last couple of days wandering around the town, revisiting my old haunts (except the legendary Bubbles, which will come later in the week). I’m also catching up on sleep – as you might have gathered from my last post on all the parties in my last few days in Burundi, I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep, and the bus ride was pretty tiring. It’s great to be back – I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I got into Aristoc (bookstore for those of you that don’t know Kampala) and had the usual supermarket-culture-shock. It’s annoying that I can’t drink the tap water any more though (not sure if I’ve posted on this before, but in Bujumbura you can drink the tap water!).
It’s also disconcerting that in the 18 months I’ve been away, things have changed. Shoprite, Game and Uchumi have been supplemented by Nakumatt, the Kenyan supermarket chain, which have opened a branch in a brand spanking new mall and restaurant complex. Garden City is bigger, or at least the attached hotel is bigger. Kyoto has closed down and/or moved (nooooooooo!). And there’s a new brand of beer – Nile Gold, produced by the same people who make Nile Special. Haven’t tried it yet, but will report back when I have the chance.
These fast changes are disconcerting, but I suppose they are an inevitable feature of quickly-developing countries. When I go back to London or Oxford after long periods nothing much changes, because those cities have pretty much reached where they’re going to go, so change is slower and less dramatic (except for East London, with the Olympics). But Kampala is growing quickly, so changes are inevitable – people say the same things about Kigali, and I expect that if I go back to Burundi a couple of years after the election (if it goes well) then it will be very different, with either a Nakumatt or a Shoprite, taller buildings, hopefully a bookshop, and more hotels. The traffic will also be a lot worse; Claver claims that the traffic in Bujumbura is bad, something that I find hilarious – he really needs to go to Kampala! In some way’s I regret it – Bujumbura’s size and relaxed feel are part of its charm – but it’s inevitable, and I welcome it because it’s part and parcel of development. And a bookshop would be great.