Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Pearl

Puneet Goenka
 
(This post was written during my last week in Uganda)

As part of my English literature class in middle school, we were assigned a short novel written by American author John Steinbeck called ‘The Pearl’.  It is the story of a pearl diver who chances upon an unusually large pearl – and in an attempt to change his family fortunes he sets out to sell his new possession.  The pearl however brings with it death, misery, and misfortune.  This forces the protagonist to get rid of the pearl by throwing it back into the sea – perhaps realizing that it may be best for no one person to stake their greed and claim something so unique, so beautiful, and so valuable.

While I had done some research and Google Image searches of Johannesburg and Accra when I was in Ann Arbor, somehow I never got to researching anything about Uganda – and so my mind was blank – I had no expectations, good or bad.

Kampala is one of the greenest cities I have visited, and Uganda one of the lushest countries.  My walk to work each morning was alongside the long and windy Kampala Golf Course, and when the smell of grass and trees overpower the black smoke that is emitted from some of the matatu’s (shared vans), you can be assured that the city has something working in its favor (even if the pollution control board has much to be desired in terms or regulating emissions).

Baha'i temple complex in Kampala

Walk to work along the golf course in Kololo, Kampala
And even though Kampala is a beautiful and entertaining city in itself (tons of cafes, restaurants, and bars, beautiful sites such as the Gaddafi mosque and Baha'i temple, and the best avocados and pineapples in the world) the time I spent outside the city has been most exciting.  River rafting at Jinja - the source of the river Nile, game drives through the never ending grasslands and plains of Murchison Falls National Park, and canoeing and lazing around at Lake Bunyonyi in the South West corner of the country.  If I haven’t been explicit enough, I’ll be even clearer – plan your next vacation to Uganda!

Game drive at Murchison Falls National Park
It is now obvious to me why Uganda is known as the Pearl of Africa.  I just hope that unlike John Steinbeck’s pearl, this one isn’t exploited for personal gain but instead is respected, awed at, and enjoyed in equal measure by everyone. 

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