guest post: you are so fat!

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It is five hours from Kampala to Tororo. On long journeys, the matatus adhere to their fourteen-passenger capacity though with children, chickens and luggage there isn’t much of a difference. The air clears as we leave Kampala, and the stress of the city gives way to fields of maize, sugar cane and coffee. Every so often we pass through a town, the smooth cement facades of the center brightly painted with advertisements for juicy fruit, Bull detergent, cell phone companies. Women sit by the side of the road selling roasted bananas and quanqog, charcoal and bricks. Children herd goats twice their size, laughing.

Up until Jinja the road is decent – gravelly, and the matatu often skids, but adequately wide and consistently flat. Beyond Jinja, the road narrows considerably and as larger vehicles have right of way, we drive mostly on the shoulder at an angle that makes one think seriously of death. The road is pockmarked with craters, and our straight path becomes a roller coaster of back and forth as the matutu, whose shocks wore out long ago, swerves to avoid potholes, kicking up a red dust that settles thick on the skin. Too often the vehicles approaching in the other direction compete with our stretch of smooth tarmac, veering away two seconds too late for any comfort. We matatu passengers are reduced to bobble head dolls – to borrow E.’s comparison – tossed about to the strains of Celine Dion. I am beginning to think that African standards of beauty – “you are so fat!” is the highest of compliments – were developed to protect the body from death by matutu ride…

–by the lovely Clara, who visited Jan ’08

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