African Joyriding


Last night was my first night back in Uganda, back in Kampala. The place where I spent my first real adult years, the place where I experienced joy, disappointment, success, failure, love and growth — all encapsulated in this small but chaotic town. I’m staying with an amazing friend T, who had jumped to my aid only two years ago by giving me a room in his house. I headed with his roommates to a newish Mexican restaurant/bar in town for a birthday party.

T stumbled in late, as the dinner was drawing to an end, drunk from a work meeting. I stayed and we drank some more before getting into his car to leave. I tried to take the keys from him, but like a Ugandan now, he wouldn’t let me. So we roared home on the dark empty streets, through the lush foliage, up the last dusty hill. I laughed as I stuck my head out of the window into the wind, and T lighted a cigarette as he told me another story. Driving in Africa is one of my favorite things to do, even if it it is also one of the most dangerous.

Drink driving, as East Africans call it, is a huge problem in this region. Kenyans, Ugandans, Tanzanians refuse to abandon their cars at home when they go out to bars and clubs at night, and, as a result, frequent accidents happen. A Kenyan photographer died, so did a friend of a friend. On my first day in Kenya, a woman on the radio reported that 1,000 deaths had occurred over the last 4 months, mainly due to a combination of unruly matatu vans and drunk driving. Still they drink, they laugh and they drive.

Photo via Project Diaspora

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