If you read local Ugandan newspapers, you’ll find most stories coming out of Mukono Town are a little bizarre. Witch craft, co-wives plotting against one another, husbands be-heading their wives over a few misplaced coins. Yeah, that stuff happens. And if you were to google “Mukono Town”, you’d be told all about our modern private university and luxury hotel with swimming pool. Boring. The Reality? Mukono Town has a population of over 60,000 souls. There’s a lot of delightfully normal life going on here. Here’s a glimpse into my Mukono.
I first came to Mukono 11 years ago. It’s a small town, about 20 km east of Kampala on the Kampala-Jinja highway. Back in 2004, Mukono was peaceful, basic, a few shops and a bank. It took me 10 weeks before I ran into another foreigner – and she was passing through from Jinja. But I’ve been here and watched the place grow. And develop. I’ve become part of it. We now have multi-story buildings and shopping arcades, crazy through traffic, some pretty great night spots, hotels galore, 8 banks, and even proper paved pedestrian walkways.
Mukono’s population is varied. We have wealthy professionals and middle class corporates who commute to and from Kampala. Lots of families, means many schools. We have students attending Uganda Christian University. They keep our night clubs hopping, and clothing and electronic shops busy. As Mukono is the district capital, we have a large government presence. It’s size attracts many men who leave their families in the village to come look for work. Peddling basic goods and small services is a major source of income. Mukono residents don’t have to travel far to satisfy their needs. Our night market is bustling with food, shoes, handbags and phones on sale til late. To cap that all off, you can park the car.
I’ve lived in 4 different locations in Mukono. In the beginning, I had 2 rooms, some gerrycans, and a pit latrine near Wantoni. By 2008, I had a small apartment in Nasuti with my own inside toilet. Tired of bustling town life, in 2011, I shifted out a few kilometres to Kigunga. I lived in this small village when I gave birth and enjoyed the peace and birdsong of living in a forest. These days I’m back in central Mukono, loving life (and my inside kitchen, toilets, bath tub, and water heater – yeah, life is pretty good these days). Of course a house is not a home without it’s people. Here are mine:
Central Mukono living is awesome. You really feel like you’re a part of the community. And I am. I walk everywhere and shop local. Anything you could want is just around the corner. People are out and about. It’s easy to greet and stay involved in the general goings-on. If you need a soda, matches, soap, or eggs – head to Mama Sarah’s shop, around the back way. Then there’s Mary, she’s a good friend. She always has a smile and fresh veggies as I pass by, on my way to the main road. The young apprentice mechanics are a hoot. Can’t forget our friendly neighbourhood bodaboda riders. Always looking for customers, but not afraid to relax a bit.
Mukono is busy, it’s noisy, and it’s dusty. But it’s also quite beautiful. The kids, the greenery, the roadside, the back alleys, the life.
Best of all, Mukono Town is the headquarters of The Real Uganda. This is the first place volunteers experience when they arrive in Uganda. They often spend their weekends hanging out here, enjoying a hot shower and a cold beer, away from the village. They bond with each other, discuss their experiences, and build lifelong friendships.
Want to volunteer with The Real Uganda and be a part of my Mukono? Check out our website. If you like what you read, fill in our online application. We want volunteers interested in authentic, small-town living. Speak soon!
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