Post by new contributor Lindsay Clark of Nomadderwhere.
The first time I flew into NYC at night, the infinite stretch of lights had a deep impact on me – seeing the development and magnitude of the world from a pilot's-eye view. A like, yet opposite, moment occurred with the descent into Entebbe, Uganda. There were minutes of time I saw not one single light in the darkness. What was below me was simply nature, no embellishments.
After immigration, I dawdled around the exit, hoping my first couchsurfing host would recognize me from my profile picture, since unfortunately my previously given description of “brunette girl with all the bags” was not valid at the time [thanks to lost baggage]. Paul found me and took me away from the probing taxi drivers and towards the capital city of Kampala.Couchsurfing Host, Paul
I knew I made a fantastic decision to couchsurf when my drive from the airport got me closer to the real Uganda than I ever could have gotten otherwise. As we chatted through the hour-long drive, I realized the scene outside was unfolding something so eerie and intense. The dust of the streets created a fog through which car headlights revealed hundreds of wandering silhouettes. Things didn't feel so familiar anymore, as I realized the streets were littered and webbed with people, even out here in the dark of night, somewhere on a stretch of highway. Finally came the realization, the zing I sought for months:
“Wow, I'm traveling.”
Paul lived in a village right on the edge of Kampala, one called Masajja, which was connected by dirt roads, all veined and rutted by the wet season's downpours. The first few bouncy minutes brought to mind Ace Ventura on his jungle rides through Africa, singing Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang with head bouncing from the passenger's seat across and out his driver's side window. I needed a helmet there in the back seat.
The Ssenoga family, Paul and siblings, live in a home attached to a few rooms, which they rent out for their income. My travel goal of never using a squat toilet went out the window when I got a look at the compound latrine. I was in no way discouraged though, as I knew my immersion was deeper than I could have anticipated (and that doesn't mean I fell in).
Though I hadn't slept in about three days, I stayed up to chat with my host about his family, his village, and life in Uganda. Outside his window, the sun was far set, but the neighborhood was still throbbing. On the corner, a man made a stand to sell chapatis (essentially flour tortillas) for cash flow. Boda-boda drivers (guys with motorbikes) surfed the dirty waves while trying to find passengers to transport and charge.
In this community, everyone was a family man and everyone an entrepreneur. Noise was a constant, but at 2 a.m., when I awoke to roll over, I could have heard a rooster toot in the next village over.
Old MacDonald lost control of his livestock as they all crowded around my window to oddly awaken me in the morning. Roosters were crowing every thirty seconds, goats were screaming like little children in agony, motorbikes streaking across my sightline and every human being on the block took to the streets to get it done, whatever “it” was, as they had been since 4am.
I drew my first breath at 8:30am and sought some relief at the long drop. One cannot wander in there half asleep without losing a leg to the earth's dirty mouth and cracking your pelvis on the wet cement surrounding the hole. I sure do have a delightfully poetic mind.
And then I walked miles to sit on someone's lap all the way into the city…
Tomorrow, read the rest of Lindsay's experience couchsurfing Uganda.
Have you couchsurfed in a foreign country? Leave a comment and let us know if your experience was good or bad.