Friday, September 02, 2005

It Takes A Village

On my first day back in Kampala, I stopped for gas three times, in three different minibus taxis.

Minibus taxis and boda-bodas (motorbike taxis) always keep the bare minimum amount of fuel in their tanks. I am pretty sure this has to do with not wanting to give away fuel when returning it to the owner at the end of the day. The end result is that when on public transport in Uganda, you can expect a visit to the gas station as part of your daily routine.

On my second day in Kampala, I inadvertently rode the school bus.

I waved down the blue-and-white minibus taxi at my usual spot in Bbunga, on the tarmac road just in front of my accommodation at Aspen Place.

Minibuses legally hold 14 passengers, a conductor, and a driver. It is common to squeeze plenty more people in on local routes, especially if those plenty more are small children.

We stopped in front of a small primary school. A teacher gave some coins to the conductor and ushered about six uniformed children to the bus. The conductor got off and lifted the smallest children, who couldn’t have been more than 4-years-old, onto the first seat.

The kids were well-behaved and smiling. They all sat squished together. As their stop came, the medium-size kid squeaked.

“Mah-sow!” It’s the Luganda word for “stop.”

The driver pulled the taxi over and the conductor opened the sliding door. A mother was waiting in front of a three-walled butcher shop. She took her kids from the bus.

We proceeded on until the other kids squeaked “mah-sow.”

The rest of the children disembarked. Passengers helped lift the kids to the sidewalk. Several walked off together down a dirt road. The conductor took two kids by the hands and walked them across the street, before returning to his spot in our minibus.

It takes a village, I reckon.

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