Tag Archives: noise

Questions of the utmost importance

A couple of things I have to deal with on a daily basis:

Shall I bring the wet washing in off the line?

Life without a washing machine and dryer can be trying at times. I can just feel a washing machine somewhere in my future but in this climate a dryer seems like an unnecessary extravagance. So I will continue to stand, one hand on hip, one on the damp towel, head up weighing the options of a dry or rainy night. Last night, when I was awoken by an almighty crack of thunder, I knew I had lost. I think I will never have soft, fluffy and sweet smelling towels again.

What do they do with all the large horns when they kill the cows?

They pile them up and leave them beside the road. This is the part of our morning  drive when we all take a collective deep breath and hold our noses until we have passed. The pile of horns is huge and resembles a bizarre grouping of sharp yet headless cows. The horns are huge and the putrid stench coming off them is like nothing I have ever smelt on the way to work before. Strangely, there is a random sprouting of sunflowers that has popped up beside the horn patch.

Why do I have to go to at least 4 stores before I complete my grocery list?

Ahhh. A tough one this, and a conundrum I was familiar with living in Trinidad. For some reason each store has its very own likes and dislikes and this is reflected in its purchasing policy. There is no supermarket chain and all stores are privately owned and operated.  So, although one store never stocks low fat milk, another always does, but that is not the right store for cheese. One store has the best olives and meat but they haven’t got the right pasta, another has the best fruit and vegetables but never has apple juice. The list goes on and on. Shopping involves extraordinary levels of patience and petrol.

Why is my fridge outside  my kitchen and my sink outside  my bathroom?

This particular Uganda habit arises from a lack of space. Rather than simply  build enough space to fit in said fridge or said sink, it is assumed that the hall way will suit just fine.

Why do eggs taste a bit fishy?

Because they feed the chickens fish.

Why is traffic so terrible?

There are only 4 traffic lights in Kampala and not enough roads. Paved roads are the exception rather than the rule and a crater sized pot hole can cause a pile up for miles. This is also the answer to the question below.

Why does every car squeak, spew black smoke and look like it is about to fall apart?

See above.

Why do the women seem to be doing all the digging and carrying and the men seem to be doing a lot of talking, gesticulating, reading of news papers and walking empty handed?

I have no idea other than to thank my stars that I am not born a poor African woman and that I come from a land of enlightened feminism. But who am I to judge?

Does no one work on a Monday morning?

The ever present disco across the road continues to pump the music ‘till 2 am on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Who goes to a disco on a Sunday night? I have no idea but I do wish they wouldn’t. I should add that it is not a simple case of music and dancing, rather it is an occasion to listen to the DJ shouting at the top of his voice, singing along to Celine Dion and generally making a nuisance of himself. He brings out the most violent of tendencies within me.


Filed under observations, Uganda

Kampala Nights

I don’t sleep well here, not yet anyway. I need my shipping to arrive so that I can have two pillows, one to sleep on and one to put over my head. Either that or I will be investing in a pair of ear plugs.

Once I am awoken by some noise, the buzzing of a mosquito, the coughing of a husband, I am awake and there is nothing I can do about it. I simply lie there listening to the sounds of the night. I am of the opinion that one of the main disadvantages to marriage is the sharing of sleep. If one person sleeps badly the other does too. In Trinidad we had one of those incredible bowling ball beds (so called because if a bowling ball were rolled next to you, you would not feel it. I have no idea who thought that anyone would be bowling on a bed at night, but there you have it.) In any case, the bed was amazing and my sleep was good. The mattress we have now is called orthopedic, translation: hard as hell foam that is like sleeping on the floor and therefore good for your back. I will get used to it in time but what may take longer are the sounds of the night.

It is so tempting in these first weeks to think back to our previous life and compare. I don’t vocalize these thoughts as I am intent on staying positive and making sure everyone is up beat and cheerful most of the time. We are not keen on complaining and morose behaviour is discouraged. Did you hear that Princess?

However, I cannot help, while lying awake for hours at night, but to compare the sounds of a Trini night to one in Kampala. Nights in Trinidad were accompanied by a chorus of frogs, high pitched chirping tiny frogs that went on and on and on. Crickets played their part too. Mostly the sounds were drowned out by the white noise of the air conditioner. It was a pleasant atmosphere in which to sleep.

A Kampala night, in our new house where our bed lies under a open window, is a whole different story. There is a loud African disco that play quite intriguing African music until about 10pm. Then the dogs start. It seems every dog in Kampala conducts some massive conversation back and forth between the hills. It reminds me of the scene in 101 Dalmatians when the dogs invent a help line over the country side.

In addition to the dogs we live very close to a Mosque. Need I say more? The Mosques here are not synchronized so often we can hear the calls to prayer overlapping in stereo, some from afar and one very near. I am pleased to say that the voice calling the Muslims to awake is far gentler than those in Indonesia that seem to scream “GET UP YOU LAZY LOT AND START TO PRAY!!!!!”  This foghorn projects a slightly different tone. More of the: “OK. Time to roll over, get up and come over to pray.” As you can see I have had the occasion to listen carefully to all the intonations.

Then the birds start and at about the same time, the Roosters. It is still not light yet but the animals think it is wise to get a head start.  Once the dawn breaks the smell of burning charcoal wafts into our room as people in the mud and brick houses all around us begin to cook breakfast.

By the time my alarm goes off I am finally fast asleep.


Filed under Uganda


It is never silent here. If it is not the hum of the air conditioner then it is the birds, or the frogs, or someone’s lawn mower, or the thunder or rain or car horn.  Even the beach is never silent, far from it.

When we first arrived I was always awoken by the same birds, gorgeous and yellow that makes up for their ugly cry. Now I am immune to their call until later in the day. As I shower I can hear the phone ring next door and some early cars driving to school.

At school I have the constant chatter of children, screams of joy and play from the play ground, clatter of dropped food and whoops of laughter in the cafeteria. In my class, the clicks of pens or the nervous twitch of a knee bouncing against the desk makes a beat. Sometimes the buzz of an ipod or the irritating beep of a missed call interrupts the near silence of a test.  Students who fidget and play with staples, bangles, erasers and papers think they are quiet while the chatty ones do all the talking. Then there are those who talk in class, whispering as if I cannot see or hear them. 

As I am walking home I hear the barking of dogs, the clanging of electric gates and the yells of friends calling from one car to another. Birds on wires and trees protest between themselves and often a radio playing loud soca fights to compete.  Later on as I walk my dog at sunset I will hear the thump of tennis balls beside the high pitched bleep of tiny frogs. Women walking the neighbourhood gossip and boys on bikes yell. At home, TV, music and a phone call all fight, higher and higher to be heard above the din of cooking sounds. My daughters shout over who gets the shower first and my husband and dog wrestle on the floor while I sit listening to the frogs above all else.  Even once the house begins to sleep I can still hear the dish washer, the air conditioner and the music from a car driving past.

That is when I miss the silence of the snow. Standing alone in a thick wood, the noise of the road and the houses outcast by the padded snow. Silence so true that it fills your ears with the sound of nothing.


Filed under Family Stuff, Trinidad & Tobago