A Different Ride

Once again, I don’t find the time to meditate. Instead, today I’ll ride blindly.

Today I want to ride differently. Keeping my eyes open doesn’t help me in any way. Even though I can’t do anything about the ride, I always feel the urge to squeeze my knees in or lift my feet as if I could avoid hitting something.

You see, usually I drive my car to work. It’s the only safe way in Kampala. But today I want to leave my baby at home to save her the traffic. She’s not well. So, I take a boda-boda to be faster. Boda-bodas are the motorbike taxis that make traffic here so crazy. Mulago hospital has a whole wing only for victims of boda accidents. Helmets are rare. Nobody follows any traffic rules. Ever. But they are the only option to escape jam. And I have my trusted boda driver, Steven.


So today, I wrap my head into my scarf, effectively rendering myself blind and get on the boda. No seeing, no judgment. I hear engines to the left and to the right. Cars passing by, us passing cars and other motorbikes. ‘Hold your boy!’ Steven grumbles to someone. The heat pounds on me, particularly my left arm that is exposed to the mid-day sun. The wind plays with my jacket and my ankles. Slowing down, steering and veering. Picking up speed again. Hooting everywhere. A goat bleaks. Tyres screech. More hooting. Slowing down almost to a stop. The heat becomes intense. Slowly veering forward. Picking up speed again. Breathe. The smell of fumes.

Kampala meditation - a different ride

Music, then gone. The screeching of a sirene right next to me. Then gone.What if I changed the associations in my mind? I imagine all the sounds of passing cars are the sounds of waves rolling to the shore. Fast waves. The fumes are perfumes of flowers. Breathe. I feel the breeze. Shadow and light on my eyes. All of a sudden darkness. For the fraction of a moment: the promise of cool and peace. Then the light again and the heat.

We must be approaching Clocktower, Kampala’s traffic hell. We’re turning. I’m waiting for us to pass the railroad tracks. Shocks from below. Engines roar. Hooting. The smell of something nice. Fresh. Someone next to me talks in Luganda.

A boy yells.

The engine roars. We go uphill, then turn. My two fingers are stuck in the metal bar behind me, holding on to the boda. Then coolness, darkness. Must be the building that hosts Café Javas. Heat again, then darkness again. Mapeerere House. The effect is immediate, cool, nice, soothing. We turn again. Uphill again. Then slowing down. We have reached High Court.

I get off the boda, unwrap my head and blink into the light. Blue sky. Big marabus flying over, nesting in the trees around the court. It feels like I’m seeing for the first time.

Kampala meditation.

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