I didn’t expect to experience minor culture shock traveling to Kenya, but it seems that my life in Moroto is more “deprived” than I realized. My locally available food supply here is mostly limited to beans (and not in a can of course), rice, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic and avos. I can often find exciting items like green peppers, carrots, and the occasional mango (even though mangoes are in abundance in the rest of Uganda) or pineapple in the market, but it’s always wise not to expect anything on a trip to the market. In Kampala I can find what I thought was a wide variety of foods—luxuries like ice cream, chocolate, brown rice, chick peas (if you search hard enough), and cheese. A wide variety until I visited the local Nakumatt (a regional grocery store chain) in Kenya. Not only were the prices often significantly less, I found couscous, refried beans!, coconut milk (at a price that wouldn’t break the bank), tortillas (although I’ve enjoyed making my own), healthy granola bars, and more varieties of candy and chocolate than I remember existing. I bought gelato in a MALL (even though in my other life I hated malls), drank fresh juices of every fruit variety in Lamu, had a proper cappuccino with thick wholegrain bread, ate fish that had been caught the same day, discovered a health food store in the mall and had to refrain from purchasing everything in the store, and ate salad.
Life in Moroto is not so bad really; I live in a place with twenty four hour power and hot water (thanks to American tax dollars supporting US military here…hmmm), I have a good community of friends, I live in the shadow of a mountain, I have access to an oven (better than Korea), and the weather is almost perfect here. However, I also have unreliable and slow internet, I’m a ten hour drive from Kampala on roads that make the drive a bit like riding an old wooden roller coaster, and cell phone service will often cease to exist for up to days at a time. Once relatively simple tasks like getting passport photos for my resident permit in the Netherlands and DHLing my resident application form, become exercises in problem solving. I enjoy living in Moroto in many ways simply because it’s a place no one wants to be, and in its remoteness there is a beauty and untouched aspect that makes it appealing. Culturally, it is the one place in Uganda (one of few in Africa) that is still mostly preserved (which is also what makes work here a bit frustrating). Although I wasn’t exactly jumping with excitement to return to Moroto after the loveliest and “luxury” filled holiday in Kenya, it was also comforting to catch sight of Mt Moroto on the drive back and once again settle into life here.
After leaving Moroto, I realized how dramatically the development of Karamoja would change for the better if the relatively simple task of tarmacking the road to Karamoja were completed, a task that has been promised by the government year after year (mainly in election years). Businesses would come to Karamoja, driving prices down on the few goods that can be found here, therefore making life more affordable for the average person. Services like schools and hospitals would be improve because people wouldn’t be so opposed to living in this area and supplies would dramatically increase. Sometimes, I feel like all the gardening and food distribution in the world will not change this area, until they have better infrastructure. Unfortunately, infrastructure is a problem for the government…
Development aside, after my Kenya visit I think I’m in for a real shock returning to the developed world. Who would have thought that salad and ice cream would have me excited to return to a developed country?