The view of the hills astound me. The taste of Stoney has me addicted. The feel of a warm handshake from a local leaves me filled with joy. The smell of the fresh African air on a cool morning brings a smile to my face each new day.
Sight. Taste. Touch. Smell. Africa certainly appeals to all of these senses in a major way.
But I have noticed that there is once sense that it constantly overwhelms: sound. The sounds of Kampala, Uganda never seem to quit. It could be early morning, middle of the afternoon or late at night. The sounds are constantly flooding my ears with beautiful noises, both natural and man-made.
I’ve been here less than two weeks, but I have already come up with a list of common sounds heard around Kampala and my home here.
If I had a Ugandan shilling for each time I’ve had that shouted my way, I’d be a rich lady! I have seen many different “official” definitions of the word, but around here it simply seems to mean “white person” or “visitor.” It’s commonly shouted in markets and along the streets. Sometimes people are trying to sell you something, and other times they just want to be seen. Apparently it’s not necessarily derogatory, but it’s much nicer when a Ugandan says, “Madame!” or “Nyabo!”
“My heart will go on…”
Doesn’t Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from the movie Titanic make you want an ice cream treat? Apparently they think so here in Kampala. This must be a favorite of the ice cream man around here, because it’s what he plays as he tries to make a living selling ice cream off the back of his bicycle. Another favorite is, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
Whether traveling by boda, taxi or car, you can’t avoid the constant beeping from other vehicles. It’s not like America where a bunch of road-raged drivers are taking their aggression out on other drivers by honking their horns. People here honk simply to let people know that they are there, and to make sure they are seen. This is crucial to a town like Kampala where there are always people walking and enough bodas to fill the state of Texas.
“(Insert Arabic call-to-prayer here…)”
Wow. Muslims like to pray early. The “Call to Prayer” is announced over very loud speakers, and I wake up each morning at around 5 a.m. when they start. The sounds of the Arabic language and Muslim prayers to Allah echo throughout the city multiple times of day.
“Caw! Caw! Caw!” “Roof! Roof!” “Cockadoodledoo!”
There’s really no end to the animal sounds in Kampala. Dogs are constantly barking, birds singing and roosters loudly exclaiming, “Cockadoodledoo!” I’ve heard bird sounds here I’ve never heard before, some of which sound like monkeys and others like crying babies. The animal sounds sometimes leave me feeling like I live in a zoo!
“Doot doot doot dooooot!”
I am not sure who got the kids across the road a recorder, but sometimes I really wish they hadn’t. While I enjoy “When the Saints Go Marching In,” I tend to be less impressed with it at around midnight, coming from a recorder. However, it’s always beautiful to hear a young child making music.
“Swish, swish. Swish, swish.”
I am amazed at the Ugandan desire for cleanliness. Each day I see street sweepers, men and women with tiny brooms, sweeping the dirt along the sides of the road. Yes, sweeping the dirt so it is free of trash and other debris. The “swish, swish” of their brooms reminds me of the great pride they take in keeping their city clean.
The sights, smells, tastes and touch of many wonderful things around Kampala leave my senses overwhelmed and overjoyed, but it’s the sounds that have truly captured my heart and made me happy to call this new place home for a while.