By a slight twist of fate, you could find yourself leaving the posh suburbs you have known all your life for a residential area that is, well, so much less posh.
For me, the twist came in form of a baby. It is strange how the most amazing natural thing that could happen to anyone also brings so much anxiety and adjustments. You literally have to flip your life overnight. When we learnt that a baby was on the way, I and my boyfriend left our one bed roomed apartment in Naalya and sought a more baby suited home.
With the inflation, economic crisis, recession and all those high sounding monetary challenges reigning in the country, houses in the Ntinda, Bukoto, Naalya area were just crazy expensive. Yet, we found out that in Mperewe, Kanyanya, Kawempe and such places, you could get a full family house for the price of a one bed roomed apartment in Ntinda.
During my first week in my new Mpererwe home, I took a customary visit to the LC 1 chairman. The fatherly gentleman expressed concern that a young girl like me was living in an “expensive” house. You see, he explained, many people live in houses for as little as Shs 40,000 but they fail to pay the rent. These disputes keep the chairman very busy, and he has at least one case of rent defaulters every day.
“Ours is a low income area,” he said. “Most of the people who stay here work at Kalerwe. A few have odd jobs in town,” he said.
Also, it turned out, these people like to be close to their neighbours and know all what goes on in their lives. A typical taxi ride in this area involves exchanging greetings with the conductor and sometimes the driver.
They then notice you are new to the area and ask whose home you stay in. Could it be the Lules? The Sekikubos? Well, you do look like the Sekikubos! Then you have to keep smiling and feigning interest in their conversation because if you do not, then you are labeled selfish.
Soon, they lose interest in you and come up with a juicy piece of gossip. The last time it was about a certain family whose five, or is it six daughters have all dropped out of school due to pregnancy. “What a shame!” The driver exclaimed to the conductor. “Too bad your daughter is also in love with one of their sons. The sons, too, have failed to even complete senior four.”
“Oh do not tell me about that man,” the conductor replies. “In fact I do not even greet him. I wonder what my sister sees in him. He walks like he has jiggers in his feet.”
And the conversation goes on and on as other passengers join in. Others chat with their neighbours, or at least say hello and ask about their health. The passengers dress quite modestly. No alloy of expensive perfumes, leather bags and tight jeans like you are likely to find on the Ntinda stretch.
These friendly people, with their questions and concern, can be quite raffling for someone used to the stoniness of the finer places. You know the kind where you only know your neighbor’s car but have never seen him or her because of the tinted windows. But soon, you get used to it. And start to enjoy the laid back rustic life.
Also, you enjoy the low prices. The taxi fare all the way to town is Shs 1000. Even then, the passengers have to be warned sternly at the door: “Zibera lukumi!” The highest the price ever goes is Shs 1300. Even then, you get a lot of passengers declining to board. In places like Naalya, the usual fare is Shs 1500. Passengers just swoosh by you like you are invisible if you dare decline a high priced taxi during rush hour.
The food too, is quite cheap. Tomatoes for Shs500 at the nearby Kalerwe market could go for a week. While in the famous Ntinda Market, the market vendor might chase you away if you asked for tomatoes worth that much. Boda bodas still charge Shs 500 and tailors still mend clothes for Shs200.
Aside from the uncivilized traffic jam (no one seems to be willing to wait patiently in their lane) and the fact that taxis drive like they are not sure whether or not to join the road, it is an affordable area to stay in every sense.
Besides, there are a million short cuts through Kyanja, Bahai, Kamwokya Mawanda Road and Kyebando. These can help you beat the traffic, and adjust comfortably into your humble aboard.