Idi Amin Dada

Idi Amin Dada

A Story by Rich

Travel to Uganda


                                                                                           Idi Amin Dada

  As the plane dropped below the clouds, the bright green of the equatorial rain forest was the first thing that grabbed me. Occasional tea plantations were intertwined with the landscape to give it a partially tamed and ordered appearance. I had left the grasslands of Kenya and was now looking at what is often called the Pearl of Africa. The rolling hills soon gave way to water. A vast expanse of water with small islands and a shoreline that faded from sight. Lake Victoria borders four nations and is the source of the Nile River. Societies have developed and survived here since long before history was recorded. I try to absorb the significance of what I'm seeing and to be duly appreciative of these sights, although I know I'm not quite keeping up. We descend a little lower over Kampala and I recall the origin of this cities name. The local Ugandan king at the time that British exploration was expanding held this valley apart as his favorite hunting grounds. The valley and surrounding hills were home to large herds of impala. In typical British fashion, it was translated into something close, hence the valley was renamed Kampala. Too quickly, my plane touches down at the airport in nearby Entebbe. In the fading light of dusk I am looking at the terminal from my window seat. I instantly ponder "this is Entebbe”. This is where the Israeli commandos rescued the hostages. That intense drama, played out in such a fascinating way on the world stage. Idi Amin Dada had co-opted the Palestinian hijacking and like the ring master that he was, focused the world's attention on himself as the benevolent savior. Here I am, looking at that very spot. But the airport is surprisingly small and not at all crowded. Once inside, the casual, unhurried customs agents and the innocuous little facility made me laugh at my own association with something that happened over 30 years ago.

  After about an hour, I stepped outside. There comes a time for any traveler when it hits you. No matter how seasoned, how well researched or how pleased you are to have arrived at a new and unfamiliar place, the realization hits you. I am in a place where the people have no knowledge and no interest in my culture or my expectations or in my history. My career and my retirement plans, my medical insurance or my idea of government and its laws have no relevance here. The protections and conduct I take for granted at home have been left behind. I realize that my health and well-being at present are in the hands of strangers and I am entirely dependent upon their good will. Being a solitary traveler and the only white face within many miles, adds a particular spice to it all.

  Just beyond the cone of light cast by the terminal entry, it is dark. It is Africa dark. There exists no illumination from street lights or glow from the city and the people moving around out there are equally dark. A few are just visible by the white shirts and pants favored in the tropics, The glow from a cigarette and the dome light in a cab give some scale to the path I am to take. I am aware of a fear rising in me. It feels instinctive and irrepressible. The next decision I make has suddenly become significant. I think to myself "this is definitely not the time to be timid" and I press forward. At the same time I am delighted. I am at the threshold of a dream I have had since looking at National Geographic magazines in grade school. I was looking for an experience unlike any other and it had most certainly begun.

  The sensations were coming at such speed I thought "this is like trying to drink from a fire hose"... and I hadn't yet left the airport. The smells I would later come to know as banana trees, lemon grass and BBQ'd pork all combined with the humid night air, so heavy and thick that it was palatable. The African reggae beats from the taxis radios fit perfectly. Within moments I found myself in negotiations with several spirited drivers, all competing for fares. I settled on a middle aged driver that seemed more amused than aggressive. He had an easy smile and a wedding ring. I seized on what subtle clues I could to ensure my ride back to Kampala was uneventful.

  I relaxed in the cab and let the driver deal with the traffic. The free for all, near misses and pot holes that are all part of the daily flow of Uganda streets. The young guys on scooters they call boda bodas, doing their daredevil stunts as only young males can do, were of little concern to me. Feeling very satisfied with my first day of travel, consumed with the reality of Kampala, I must have been a bit distracted when absent mindedly I asked the driver..."do you know where Idi Amin's palace was?"



© 2016 Rich

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Added on August 30, 2016
Last Updated on August 30, 2016



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