The “Pearl Of Africa”: Uganda As A Synonym For Nature, Dancing, And Love

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On their recent tour through Serbia, members of the Ugandan Drum Beat dancing troupe were keen to share their thoughts about what life is like in Uganda nowadays. Telling a story about a homeland that is facing many issues, Brenda, Christine, and Zura pointed out that there are still many joys and beauties in Uganda that people don’t know much about. After spending just one night with them our contributor Jelena Zoric discovered a unique philosophy of life among Ugandans – they don’t stress out about problems, and while trying to solve them they laugh at them. They dance to celebrate life, using the beat that is in their blood, inherited from their ancestors. And most of all – they share love as much as they can in many diverse forms.

Located in the center of Africa, enriched with more than ten huge National parks, mountain ranges, and fertile soil, Uganda seems likes a natural paradise. Is that the reason it was named „the pearl of Africa“?

Christine: Uganda is the only African country that has literally everything. It is the land of „milk and honey“. We have a very mild climate and beautiful weather. We also have mountains, lakes, highlands, and not to forget – abundant wild life. One of the most famous lakes in the world, Lake Victoria, is also among the scenic attractions of our country. For all these reasons Uganda is considered a „pearl“. Extremely fertile soil gives us a chance to live by farming. Altough we are in the digital era we are and we will continue to promote naturally grown food.

A large percentage of Uganda’s people, 87% of them, still lives in the countryside, and most of them are poor. What do they do for a living, and how do they manage to survive?

Christine: Even the poorest people farm, and grow whatever they need on their land. So that way, parents send therir children to public schools and also manage to qualify for insurance. For basic needs, raising crops or any kind of food is quite enough.

Brenda: We have beans, maize, cassava, families grow it and sell it. Also a lot of families make Ugandan handicrafs. Hand-made products are being sold, and that is how poorer families survive and feed themselves.

 

 

Young people increasingy tend to leave their villages and move to the capital, Kampala. How do they support themselves while studying?

Christine: It is a very complex question. Most young people move to Kampala to get an education, but as they study, in order to pay tuition fees, they do part time jobs. They often sell artcrafts, for example. What is very important to mention is that we have special educators who visit our villages and educate people in local business realities, how to survive. So, in a way, all the young people who come to the capital are already prepared to earn some money before they earn their University degrees and get jobs. They are basically ready for life within and outside the village.

What is the most sought after career in Uganda today?

Brenda: Although we cannot neglect mentioning IT as the most popular profession, I have to say in Uganda it all goes back to agriculture. Why? One of the reasons is the fact almost every family has land that can be cultivated. Our philosophy is all about helping each other and including less fortunate Ugandans in what we do. So if I launch a start-up project regarding private business in agriculture I will include other people in it and that way will help by employing more Ugandans.

Uganda earns a large national income from exporting its natural resources. What is currently being exported the most?

Brenda: Milk products and rice are highest at the moment. But we also export fish, tea, and coffee. Uganda has a very successful cotton industry, so we are trying to be number one again in Africa and we are increasing the export of cotton. We have declined to number two at the moment. Cocoa is also one of the products we export.

The capital suffers from poor infrastructure – roads are heavily congested, and there are frequent power cuts. What are the main issues you are dealing with nowadays?

Brenda: It is true we have issues with traffic, but not as much as the lack of power plants.

Christine: Uganda has problems with health care like any other system or country, so I wouldn’t single it out as one of the main issues we are dealing with.

As for power cuts, electricity production has risen by 60% lately, so it is getting better. The issue we are having with power plants is that there are simply not enough for the country’s growing demand. Nevertheless, when Brenda and I were in Kampala recently power cuts happened only twice during a month, which is not so bad. In the past it used to happen far more often.

 

 

How do poor parents in rural areas educate their kids, how are they dealing with finding places to rent?

Brenda: Thanks to our president, Yoweri Museveni, poor families can educate their children up to a certain level – so, education at state schools is free.

Christine: Where do they live while studying? Well, we have hostels and cheap rental rooms near Universities. But, in Africa, we also have something which is rare in Europe, and those are so called „extended families“. So if a family is so poor that it can not pay for a room or rent space in a student hostel, someone from the comunity or a family member who has a house or a flat in Kampala, will take in a student and take care of him or her for the whole time studies continue. For example, I can house my sister’s kids and they would be living in my home all the time. I will make no distinction between them and my own children. We have that kind of love, and we share a unique unity. It’s the same in other African countries.

What do local people like doing in their leisure time in Uganda?

Brenda: What locals enjoy doing is just visiting their friends, their neighbours, listening to music, and dancing! It’s all about a little bit of joy at the end of the day.

Christine: You know, it’s the culture. We have seen our great-grandparents dancing and enjoying music, so we just keep it running! It’s in our blood, we are music, we are dance and the dance is in us.

When tourists come to visit Uganda they will face two interesting options for transport, in local language known as matatus and boda – boda. Can you explain the difference?

Brenda: Local people also use this kind of transport, just like the tourists. Matatus is a little bus, more like a van, but it’s not public transport. Boda – boda are small motorbikes, and they are very handy because they can get you through Kampala’s busy traffic, wherever you go.

It would be interesting for our readers to know, what is the typical Ugandan breakfast?

Brenda: It is important to explain that every tribe has it’s own typical food, so there are many different combinations of meals: matooke (a sort of plantain Ugandan banana) mixed with meat, mixed vegetables with a cup of milk or tea. A simple breakfast can be just a cup of tea or coffee with home made pancakes. You have to know that our pancakes are different from what you have in Europe – they are made of a mixure of cassava flour and bananas (cassava is a local vegetable). In some parts of Uganda we also like to eat mandazi, something similar to your donuts, and chapati, which looks like a typical tortilla.

If you had the power to change at least two things in Uganda right now, what would they be?

Christine: I would take the kids off the streets and give poor children a chance to live better lives.

Brenda: I would make hospitals and health services more accessible to people from the villages, so they would no longer be forced to travel long distances to reach them.

Zura: I think our roads need serious reconstruction, so that traffic could be less heavy and complicated.

Why is it good to live in Uganda?

Christine: Because of LOVE. The extraordinary love we feel and share unconditionally. Even if we have problems we deal with them with smiles and dancing. We don’t allow stress to overcome us. Even if I am sad, and you are sad, I will put my sadness away and I will give you happiness – that’s what Uganda is.

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