Uganda’s Taxi Park: Organization in the Chaos
By Sarah Curl, KF 12 Uganda
It’s five thirty in the morning and my cell phone that functions as an alarm, telephone, clock and flashlight is going off. The sound starts off soothing but gets more obnoxious as the minutes pass. I reach out but my bed net is blocking my access to the blaring sound. I fumble around the bed net and find some opening to reach out and turn my alarm off. This morning is the start of a long day which consists of traveling to a branch that is five hours away. As I quickly get up, I stumble around and find clothes that appear appropriate in the dark. I grab a yogurt that I drink while I walk the ten minutes to find a boda-boda. My eyes have not completely opened yet but with the boda speeding through traffic lanes and oncoming traffic, it always has a way of waking you up and being the natural caffeine you need in the morning.
I get to the taxi park at around seven in the morning. After living in Kampala for over 2 and a half months, I find the taxi park a welcomed comfort. This place was my nightmare when I first arrived. I was told on week two to get to the taxi park and take a taxi to a branch. Much easier said than done when you are on your own and a taxi park consists of hundreds of similar looking taxis with conductors calling out prices and final destinations. Now I feel like the pro who knows exactly where to go or at least thinks I know where I am going. The round trip commute alone is going to take ten hours today so I settle in my seat and get comfortable.
As I wait for the taxi to depart, various items are being sold through the open windows of the taxi. It almost feels as if the market has come to you, since you have the option of purchasing everything from bars of soap, goat meat, air time for your cell phone, ice cream, gold watches and everything in between. The taxi park looks very overwhelming when you first arrive but soon you realize there is an order to the chaos. Every taxi is in some sort of line which waits till it is full before departing. Full is a relative term because full in Uganda means every inch of seat must be occupied and this includes children on laps and animals under the seats.
As we drive out of Kampala, I realize how comfortable I have become in Uganda. When I first got here, I was in the back of a taxi, gliding through the streets at ten at night with a terrified look on my face. Now what used to make me think about how different this is from home, seems more familiar than different. I have become accustomed and can’t help but feel like in a few weeks when I head home, I am going to feel the same out of place feeling when I drive back through the streets of Los Angeles, my hometown. And all the while, during my realization of how at home I feel, the two chickens who are on the same commute as me have wandered away from their owner and now reside next to my feet for the five hour journey. The clucking and movement of the chickens, the noise and brush on my leg every few minutes doesn’t even seem to alarm me as much as it would have months ago.
To get a better idea of the taxi park in Uganda, I have attached a quick video. Also, feel free to type into Google Images “Uganda Taxi Park” and you will get a better understanding of what I am talking about.'
Sarah Curl is a Kiva Fellow serving in Kampala, Uganda. She is working at Pearl Microfinance while spending time navigating the taxi park and logging some serious hours on busses, matatus and bodas all over Uganda.
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