I’m determined to get to Acacia Mall today, even though Annette was concerned for me to go alone, even though my freaking Uber app isn’t working… I must get to Acacia Mall to go to the MTN store and get my my-fi so I can finally have wifi!
Turns out I’m in the flow and a synchronicity occurs… Monica is on her way to the airport and will drop me off. Grateful. Feeling spoiled yet totally open to receiving this gift.
Acacia Mall… OMG… polished tile floors, multiple stories, shops, escalators, a water fountain, people sitting outside a restaurant at the entrance, enjoying a leisurely Saturday brunch… it’s like heaven. After the red dusty roads and small roadside markets, my privileged Western sensibilities breathe all the upscale luxury in.
I’m a woman on a mission: first stop, the MTN store. What they tell me there when I arrive is a bit absurd: they do have an MTN device they can sell to me for $179K schillings, and although it’s supposed to come with a month of unlimited internet, that isn’t working right now so I’ll have to pay extra to get a data plan. Now, in the big scheme of things this is NO BIG DEAL. $179,000 schillings is equivalent to about $50 USD. I paid more than triple that for the hot spot device in America. So it’s just like what I did at Verizon store in NY: I can buy the device and then pay for actual service separately.
But I’m annoyed. I feel worked over. This is such a scam, I think. This is absolutely ridiculous. You can’t even include a special internet plan with it even if it’s not unlimited? No. They can’t. I don’t like being taken advantage of and that’s what must be happening here, I think. The young man quickly gives me a ticket, says to just wait till they call me up to the counter and then perhaps I can ask them what they can do for me, and walks away.
That’s when I remember reading somewhere that Ugandans don’t like conflict. That you can get further with someone by staying calm, patient, having a sense of humor, and asking them about their kids before getting down to business. I totally did NOT do that. I was arrogant and annoyed and let that be known.
The annoyance quickly dissipates. I do NOT want to be that angry arrogant uptight American-mzungu. And after all, 50 bucks plus some more for data is not a big deal for me. It’s easy. When I can let go of my ego that doesn’t want to be scammed and believes this is so messed up.
I get called up to the counter and by then I’m breathing calmly and am clear on what I am going to do. The woman, Ronah, is pleasant, friendly and absolutely supportive. She is patient, too, as I ask a dozen questions and stand there to get all those questions answered and the SIM cards for my phone and the my-fi all sorted with data and air time and hallelujah!! I’ve finally figured out their system and have what I need to be connected with both devices!
I’m happy. I’m on a “I-finally-have-wifi-and-all-is-good-with-the-world-again” high. I’m also humbled with the realization that arrogance and anger will get my nowhere.
And then… OMG… I go shopping. I stop into one store and see a t-shirt I love, try several different versions of it on, and buy it. I then head into the bookstore and with much delight find maps of Kampala and books written by Ugandan or at least African authors. I buy what I want. I feel rich.
Then off to Café Javas for lunch and free wifi. I get a seat exactly where I desire… in the booth along the side wall that is open to the greenery outside. I indulge my desire for chicken quesadillas and a salad. I enjoy having free wifi and download some call recordings and safari pictures… things I haven’t had internet to do until now.
I feel rich. Wealthy. Privileged. Although I’ve ‘only’ spent about $130 USD today, I am vividly aware that this is more than many Ugandans make in a month or two months or more.
I run back over to the other side of the mall to pick up some things at the grocery store. I’m excited to get ghee for my Ugandan family, tea for me, some chocolate for the team, and a few other things. I get to the cash register and they tell me they can’t take my credit card. I don’t have enough cash on me or a debit card to withdraw more money. I relinquish my few groceries and remind myself to let go of any arrogant annoyance. I realize I have enough cash on me for one item. I select the tea. OMG am I selfish???
The sun has set. Many people have told me to NOT be outside or go anywhere alone after dark. I remember that movie with Will Smith who is the only one left in the city and if he is out after dark all these crazy creatures come after him. I shake my head… let that go let that go let that go, I tell myself.
It’s time to get an Uber. I sit outside Café Javas waiting for my ride, watching the crazy traffic at the intersection and crossing through the gas station that is right in front of the restaurant. I mean… right in front of the restaurant. Would you like some fuel smells with that latte? Shaking my head I let go of the judgments and appreciate my privilege: being able to afford a private car that will come pick me up and deliver me safely home; having a belly filled with delicious food and a takeaway box with extra salad and a dessert for the girls at the house; new books to read; new maps to help me orient to this place; wifi…
The day wraps up sitting around the table back at the house with Linda, her cousin, Pretty, and Rachel, as we enjoy the piece of red velvet cake – and a salad – that I brought home for us to share. With the parents gone, there is a different kind of connection and conversation. Red velvet cake? Come on… really? Paying the privilege forward can be sweeter than sweet.