Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 2--Getting used to Africa time

Today was a relaxed and semi-lazy day, though we definitely walked a good deal. We woke up a bit late, crawled out from underneath are bed nets, and slowly prepared ourselves for the day. We finally left the hotel around 11:30 or 12 and set out for a cafe called 1000 Cups Coffee House. We made it there without getting lost and only having to reference our map once! Two days and we're already learning our way. This place was great! They had an extensive menu with coffee and non-coffee beverages from all over the world. We stuck with good old iced coffee, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Nrupa, on the other hand, dumped an entire container of sugar in hers and still found it bitter. We had good sandwiches. I ordered Hawaiian french toast, which was a grilled sandwich with different fruits inside. Delicious. They also added different fruits around the side of the plate, some of which we couldn't even identify. I tried my first star fruit, which tastes like a tangy orange.

After enjoying the breeze and peacefulness at 1000 Cups for awhile, we browsed their crafts collection, bought some things, and headed across the street to more craft shops. The shops were part of a cooperative to help women earn money. I bought one thing and felt good about it since I was helping support a local craftswoman. Plus what I got is pretty sweet. After awhile, however, being in the craft market became very overwhelming. All the women sit at the front of their stalls and as soon as you walk by they perk up. If you show interest in something they have out front, they stand up and beckon, "Come in and look around. Come look at my shop." Then they proceed to shove random items into your hands, hoping to find something that you'll purchase. It gets so stressful after awhile; I just felt guilty for not buying anything. Oh well. They are definitely good saleswomen and they know their items intimately.

Next we headed back to our hotel to drop off our purchases and change our clothes--we had decided to head to Old Kampala to visit a mosque and needed to be dressed more appropriately. In Old Kampala, we ended up touring temples for three different religions. First, we visited a Gurudwara (guru=god, wara=door--door to god) temple, the place of worship for Sikhs. Nrupa told me a lot of interesting facts about this religion, but naturally I forgot a lot of them. Either way it was interesting. I love visiting temples of other religions and learning about the different customs. Next, we happened upon a Swaminarayan temple, which is a branch of Hinduism whose main god is Swaminarayan. Men and women pray separately in this religion, and we almost walked into the mens' room in the temple. Thankfully (I think) a few guys were praying in there so we knew we were on the wrong side. Plus the cleaning guy pointed us in right direction. The guys we almost walked in on came out after they were finished praying and gave us some fruit as a prasad, which is blessed food offered to god and then consumed. Lastly, after much searching, winding, and walking uphill, we found the Gadafi Mosque, the largest mosque in Uganda. It was only finished in 2006. We rolled down our pant legs and donned our long sleeve shirts and head scarfs and ventured in after our guide (who kind of ripped us off by charging us Ush3000 ($1.50) each for scarves to wrap around our waists since we were wearing pants, which was apparently taboo; thankfully we brought our own scarfs to cover our hair or he would have charged us even more). Inside, however, was beautiful. There was a large empty space with beautiful glass windows downstairs where the men pray and a much smaller but equally as beautiful balcony upstairs for the women. The women also have an area to pray on the lowest level of the mosque that is an entirely separate room from that of the men.

We then walked home, thankfully finding a much shorter route to prepare for dinner. We met up with a connection I had (thanks Joyce) for dinner this evening. She and her friends have been living in Uganda for just over a year, so were able to give us some really good advice, as well as discuss the interesting work they do with public health organizations in Kampala. We went to this Ethiopian/Eritrean place that was delicious. We sat outside in this little garden that was barely lit (we had a candle on our table that kept burning out), drank our first Ugandan beer (Nile special--very good, especially since I'm not a huge fan of beer), and enjoyed some delicious lentils and injera. They told us about a B'ahai temple (one of only seven in the world) in Kampala, so we're going to meet up with another girl we met at dinner there tomorrow morning, then check out a vegetable market in the city. At night we might take another stab at trying to find the Ghanaian restaurant we attempted to eat at last night. Apparently it does still exist, is delicious, and is located on the other side of the city from where our guide book directed us (shame on you Lonely Planet).

Okay, ready for night two under my bed net.

Things I've noticed today:
1) It's amazing how much weight people can carry, mostly on their heads and shoulders. I wish I could take pictures but I feel awkward taking my camera out in the middle of the bustling sidewalks.
2) I thought Saturday was going to be much calmer than yesterday, but the opposite was true. Maybe because the business people don't have work, so the stores are even more congested. I think tomorrow will be less busy since around 80% of the population is Christian. I figure most people will be tending to their religious duties.

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