Talking to Strangers in Jinja, Uganda // Frame Ambition

Dave’s dad had said to him, “It doesn’t feel like much to you because you spend so much time around travelers and hear all about them too, but I think if you just wrote about your life, that would be a good book”.

I love being called out through someone else’s story because here we both were sitting over the Nile talking abuot how he’d won the US Greencard lottery and gone to be with his girlfriend in Charleston where he was rear-ended while riding his bicycle. We talked about my 6 years in South Africa and how I could spot the Afrikaans hostel manager with his rum and coke instantly the previous night. We talked about all the shit I had seen volunteering on a small island nearby that would make me mistrust white missionaries and volunteers in the “third world” forever.

And here we both were with doubts about having a decent book worth reading in either of us.

There was a guy who sold rolexes outside the hostel - his kiosk had the fewest signs in English with prices on them so I went there. He said he understood a little Kishwahili and I asked if he was a policeman, smirking at my effective Ugandan joke because he laughed a little. I love learning inside jokes in new places.

No, his mum was from Kitale. He turned to start on my rolex and the guy next to me started his rehearsed tourist chat. Where was my group? Had I been rafting yet? Did I want to go? Was I Ugandan? Oh, Kenyan. I said no just to mess with him and he took the challenge to guess. Senegalese?

I cracked up because that’s not the first time someone’s given that very specific guess. Maybe its time to see how well my face actually blends in Senegal.

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Out she came with a little metal bucket full of my garlic/Parmesan chips that I had made a conscious decision to not feel guilty about breaking the days food budget on. She confirmed they were for me, I said yes and thanked her.

“Are you sick? Or…”

I told her I’d been a little sick but was getting better and she should have heard my voice 4 days earlier.

“Oh but it sounds like you’re someone with a beautiful voice”, she reassured me. “I thought maybe you were a musician.” I took the compliment and asked if she was a musician. She said she sings a little.

3 days later on my way out of Jinja I stopped at the deli once more for some tea and WiFi. She said hello, told me she had seen me walking into town the day before and got to asking more about me, where I was from and what I was doing in Jinja alone. These questions not being my first interaction with someone, especially after traveling for a while, is something I truly appreciate.

She said they weren’t allowed phones while working but quickly pulled hers out to show me pictures of her niece who also lives in Nairobi.

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Whats the best exchange you’ve had with a random stranger anywhere?

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