‘You can’t step into the same river twice,’ they say, they taunt, they warn. It may look the same; the water may feel the same, caressing skin between toes. The smell might even evoke a long ago memory that feels so refreshing you are tempted to submerge yourself fully, try to grab a current, ride it to your past to reshape, recreate, relive a better yesterday.
I knew Uganda would be different. I had no idea a river could turn into a sea so fast. I still see familiar corners, know my way around this way and that, but everything has changed, expanded, grown. It’s shiner. It’s faster.
A refrain on endless cycle from before, heard from taxi drivers, shop keepers, dreamers, “Museveni gave us peace, but now there are no jobs. We have our lives but no money to live them.”
As we flew away to Rome, the earth spilled oil.
Six years ago my husband, daughter and I drove all the way from Kampala to Nairobi. It took us three days, through bush, through tea plantations, through gorgeous emptiness, and when we landed in Nairobi it felt like landing on the moon. We felt dusty, creased, Uganda falling off us like dirt in this city of shine, of commerce, of wealth. Just one country over seemed a world away.
Six years later Kampala feels like a new Nairobi hatchling.
Oil. Gas. Investors.
The new cafés are filled with youth. The new shops with pulse. The people with hope.
How amazing to experience this change. To watch it shift. To step into something so familiar, and yet so new.